By Christopher N. Osher
The Denver Post
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are "converting Denver into a United Nations community."
"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.
Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor's efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes "that's exactly the attitude they want you to have."
"This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms," Maes said.
He added: "These aren't just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor. These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to."
Maes said in a later interview that he was referring to Denver's membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an international association that promotes sustainable development and has attracted the membership of more than 1,200 communities, 600 of which are in the United States.
Denver became a member of the group in 1992, more than a decade before Hickenlooper became mayor. Eric Brown, the mayor's spokesman, said the city's contact with ICLEI "is limited."
George Merritt, a spokesman for the Hickenlooper gubernatorial campaign, said the group's goal is "to bring cities from all over the world together to share best practices and help create the kinds of communities people want to live and do business in. John Hickenlooper believes collaboration leads to smart decisions."
Hickenlooper has often touted bicycling as an environmentally friendly and healthy way for people to commute to work and has said he hopes more people will do so.
Last week, Hickenlooper upset some auto dealers on the eve of a fundraiser when he lauded the city's B-Cycle bike- sharing program at an event and asked: "How do we wean ourselves off automobiles?"
Maes, at the rally July 26, took aim at Denver's bike-sharing program, which he said was promoted by a group that puts the environment above citizens' rights.
The B-Cycle program places a network of about 400 red bikes for rent at stations around the city. It is funded by private donors and grants.
Maes said ICLEI is affiliated with the United Nations and is "signing up mayors across the country, and these mayors are signing on to this U.N. agreement to have their cities abide by this dream philosophy."
The program includes encouraging employers to install showers so more people will ride bikes to work and also creating parking spaces for fuel-efficient vehicles, he said. Polls show that Maes, a Tea Party favorite, has pulled ahead of former Congressman Scott McInnis, the early frontrunner in the Aug. 10 primary for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Maes acknowledged that some might find his theories "kooky," but he said there are valid reasons to be worried.
"At first, I thought, 'Gosh, public transportation, what's wrong with that, and what's wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what's wrong with incentives for green cars?' But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty," Maes said.
He said he's worried for Denver because "Mayor Hickenlooper is one of the greatest fans of this program."
"Some would argue this document that mayors have signed is contradictory to our own Constitution," Maes said.