DENVER — Denver City Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca is suggesting a new tax on white-owned businesses to fund racial reparations to minority-owned businesses.
CdeBaca advocated for race-based taxation, which would almost certainly prompt constitutional challenges, at a Thursday forum before the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance.
CdeBaca faces a June 6 runoff to represent District 9. Her challenger, Darrel Watson, said he also supports racial reparations in the form of private business investment in underserved communities.
“Capitalism was built on stolen land, stolen labors, and stolen resources,” said CdeBaca, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist.
CdeBaca said a business improvement district, or BID, could be used to enact a race-based tax on white-owned businesses.
“You could be collecting those extra taxes from white-led business all over the city and redistributing them to Black and Brown-owned businesses,” CdeBaca said.
A BID is a quasi-governmental agency created by a vote of business owners in a specific area. The BID has the ability to level taxes based on assessment for a variety of purposes.
CdeBaca told Next with Kyle Clark that the constitutionality of a race-based tax is “not a factor” because BID taxes are “voluntary.”
A spokesperson for Denver’s Department of Finance said BID taxes are not voluntary once the district has been created.
“Non-residentially assessed property owners within the BID are required to pay the additional taxes/fees,” said spokesperson Courtney Meihls. “It’s not voluntary.”
CdeBaca cited San Francisco’s Legacy Business Program as a “similarly aimed” system as her race-based tax idea.
San Francisco’s Legacy Business Program supports long-standing small businesses at risk of displacement due to development and gentrification, but the race of business owners is not considered, according to a representative of the program.
Additionally, the Legacy Business Program is not funded through taxation of only white-owned businesses. The $1 million annual funding for the grant program, approved by San Francisco voters in 2015, comes from the city’s general fund.
CdeBaca posted video of her comments suggesting a race-based tax to her TikTok account on Thursday.
The post was seized on Friday by conservative commentators, including the Twitter account Libs of TikTok, which has directed its sizeable right-wing following against a number of targets in the LGBTQ community.
“This is the third time CdeBaca has been targeted by a white nationalist mob, and this is part of a concerted playbook to harass, intimidate, and silence progressives and in particular, marginalized communities,” CdeBaca’s office said in a written statement.
“I will not be silenced by the far-right playbook,” CdeBaca said in the written statement. “A nuanced discussion about reparations is necessary, but that opportunity has been taken from us by the right-wing outrage machine. This kind of discussion is not going to happen in this media landscape.”
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