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Denver mayor to cut DMV, Parks & Rec services as city deals with critical budget situation

Mike Johnston to cut DMV, Parks & Rec services as city deals with critical budget situation
Mike Johnston to cut DMV, Parks & Rec services as city deals with critical budget situation 02:25

On Friday morning, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston talked about the cuts to services the city will make due to a critical situation with the budget. He stressed that these are just the first in what could be an ongoing series of reductions that he said will be made equitably across the city of Denver. 

According to Johnston, these direct impacts on DMV and Parks and Recreation do not involve layoffs for current employees. However, hourly workers can expect fewer hours. On-call workers and seasonal workers will be most impacted.

In the press conference, Johnston began by targeting Congress and the inability of elected representatives to resolve the border crisis. He said a resolution would have helped ease the burden of the city to provide services for the newcomers. 

"We would have a balanced flow of people that would come with work authorization. That would come with federal resources, and cities like ours could successfully integrate them," said Johnston.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston CBS

Instead, Johnston said that Republicans in Congress are failing to take action due to selfish motivations.

"They would have rather seen it fail so they could exacerbate these problems, extend the suffering of the American people and for newcomers for their own election chances this November," he said. 

Johnston shares this is the first phase of cuts, but certainly not the last nor the hardest. 

"We know that folks who've been seasonal workers for us for 20 years, so I don't want to hide the fact that this matters a lot to those people that are on the frontlines," Johnston said. "This is a plan for shared sacrifice. This is what good people do in hard situations as you try to manage your way to serve all of our values."

However, some Denver residents are on the fence about these changes.

Jeri Giachetti, a longtime Denver resident shares her concerns. 

"It almost feels like a very quick solution, like let's just slash it, instead of thinking of a way we can serve the immigrants, without cutting services to the non-immigrants," said Giachetti.


Residents like Rachel Davis shared they understand why these cuts might be happening and expressed their empathy for newcomers and the city. 

"I have a lot of empathy for the city government trying to figure out how to manage this," said Davis. 

Johnston shared with almost 4,000 people in shelter, at least 80% of them are families and kids.

"We hit 5,000 people about a month ago. That was 12 times the volume we had seen previously, and so that was what we were prepared for budgeting," he said. 

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan border deal and foreign aid package, which included assistance for Ukraine and Israel, from advancing amid opposition from top House Republicans and former President Donald Trump.

Johnston said, because of that, it makes things harder for both the newcomers and communities struggling to offer support for them. 

RELATED: McMeen in the Middle series- how one Denver Public School handles increase in new students from Southern border

"So that means now we will likely not have a reduction in the number of folks who are crossing the border without work authorization, we will have more folks arrive in Denver without a path to CBP One, or a path to TPS, which means they won't have a path to work, and we will not have any federal resources to support the $180 million in costs that we are projecting to be able to provide services well over the next year," said Johnston. 

CBP One is a mobile app developed to streamline interaction between travelers and CBP officers at the point of entry at the border. 

Over the past year, Denver has welcomed more than 40,000 migrants who have arrived in the city. That means some things will need to change. 


"Without any federal support, without any work authorization, without changes to policy, we are going to have to make changes to what we can do in terms of our city budget, and what we can do in terms of support for newcomers who have arrived in the city," said Johnston. 

RELATED: City of Lakewood addresses Colorado migrant crisis and "incorrect community information" being shared

Johnston said the first departments to see cuts in services are the DMV and Denver Parks & Rec in order to meet those budget reductions. 

"We are no longer taking vehicle registrations in person. We're moving those to online. We will start rotating weekly DMV closures starting on March 4. Our central spot at Tremont will stay open permanently but our other satellite spots will rotate, closing one week at a time," said Johnston. 

RELATED: UCHealth: Another Colorado hospital under stress from migrant care

Beginning Feb. 20, Denver Recreation Centers will begin to reduce hours. Regional Centers that are open 7 days a week will only be open 6 days a week. Those that are open 6 days a week will stay open for the same number of days but the hours of operation will be reduced. 

Summer Recreation Programming in Denver will be reduced by 25% across the program. The city will also forgo planting annual flower beds this year. 

RELATED: Future uncertain for some migrants as Denver begins discharge from shelters

Johnston reiterated that he is "incredibly proud of what the city has done" and stressed that the newcomers are not the issue, but instead, it is the inability of Congress to help manage the growing number of people coming to this country. 

On Thursday, CBS News Colorado Investigator Brian Maass learned from sources that the Denver City Attorney's Office said, in the last month, administrators have decided not to fill some vacant positions and are looking hard at having workers take unpaid furlough days or possibly layoffs as they try to cut nearly $5 million from their budget. 

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