Tag Archives: City Charter

Joe Shoemaker School Dedicated Today on Former Open-Space Site

 Mayor Michael B. Hancock tours the new school.

 

Think the wheels of justice turn slowly? At 10 a.m. today, Denver Public Schools will dedicate the Joe Shoemaker School, an elementary school that opened last month as the Hampden Heights Expeditionary School at 3333 South Havana Street, at the edge of southeast Denver. Meanwhile, a request to return nine acres of land beneath that school to the City of Denver is still in the Court of Appeals.

Construction of the school started in January 2014 on property that that had been part of the Hampden Heights Open Space, next to Paul A. Hentzell Park. That land was swapped by Denver with DPS in a complicated 2013 deal that also involved DPS turning over a building at 1330 Fox Street, which is becoming the Rose Andom domestic-violence resource center. Although a majority of the members of a parks advisory board had opposed the move, the city’s then parks-director overrode that vote, paving the way for Denver City Council to approve the deal in April 2013.

Opponents of the deal claimed that the Hampden Heights property was officially a park, having been used as open space since before 1956, and so under the city charter could not be released byDenver without an election; they organized as Friends of Denver Parks to fight the action in court.

After a loss in Denver District Court where the judge upheld the “less than transparent land swap,” the group took its case to the Colorado Court of Appeals, where it had had a date on September 1. Given that the school was already up and running, Chief Appeals Judge Alan Loeb asked John Case, attorney for Friends of Denver Parks and a resident of the area, what the group wanted: “This isn’t about today or tomorrow — it’s about forty years from now, when parks land is even more scarce for an increasing population than it is today,” Case told the judge.

Joe Shoemaker certainly recognized how important parks land was to the population — and ensured that Denver had plenty to enjoy. A legislator who founded the Greenway Foundation in 1974, he pushed to transform the South Platte River from the stinking mess it had become to a true amenity for Denver and surrounding areas.

Shoemaker, a longtime supporter of the education as well as the environment, passed away in 2012…before the more recent stink over the property transfer that made the Joe Shoemaker School possible.

Advertisements

Nonprofit recommends new consideration in Denver city council race

From The Examiner April 14, 2015

By Caryl Buckstein

Buckstein

Denver Non-Profit Business Examiner

Original article can be found here

Denver Public Schools clears land adjacent to Cherry Creek considered park land by nonprofit Friends of Denver Parks. The nonprofit recommends voters consider the courtesy voting issue in this municipal election. Friends of Denver Parks

 

Denver voters participating in Ballot Trace received emails Monday that their ballots had been printed. Some were emailed Tuesday that the ballots in the municipal election had reached their local post office. They will soon be asked to decide.

A local nonprofit, Friends of Denver Parks, recommends voters consider a new factor: a commitment to avoid courtesy voting.

Courtesy voting reportedly leads to “courtesy zoning” — where the Denver City Council approves site-specific zoning matters according to the wishes of that particular district’s councilperson.

The informal practice is unethical but not illegal in Denver city government, said the nonprofit’s website. “But under the Colorado Constitution, courtesy voting in the state legislature constitutes the crime of bribery,” it said.

The nonprofit alleges that courtesy voting was behind a secretive land swap between the city and Denver Public Schools that resulted in construction of an elementary school on park land in southeast Denver. The matter is currently before the Colorado Court of Appeals. The group had attempted to present petitions with nearly 8,000 signatures to bring the matter to a vote in 2013. City Clerk Debra Johnson refused to accept the petitions.

By April 14, many of the city council candidates had signed a pledge to avoid courtesy voting. “I envision a city council that is transparent to its citizens, works cooperatively to acquire and preserve open space, and is collegial but independent from the mayor,” the pledge says. Three had refused.

Of the candidates for the two at-large city council seats, one of the five refused to sign — Robin Kniech. The four who signed were incumbent Deborah “Debbie” Ortega, Jose Silva, Jeffery Washington and Kayvan Khalatbari.

Signing in district races were candidates in:

  • District One: Rafael Espinoza and Susan Shepherd.
  • District Two: Fran Coleman Kevin Flynn, Jeanne Labuda and Danny Lopez.
  • District Four: Kendra Black, Carolina Klein and Halisi Vinson.
  • District Six: Liz Adams and Paul Kashmann.
  • District Seven: Luchia Brown, Jolon Clark, Aaron Greco, Ian Harwick, Mickki Langston and Jake Viano.
  • District Nine: Michael “Borch” Borcherding, Albus Brooks and Ean Thomas Tafoya.
  • District 10: Chris Chiardi, Anna Jones, Travis Leiker, Wayne New and Chris Cornell Weder.
  • District 11: Sean Bradley, Shelli Brown, Tim Camarillo and Tea Schook.

Along with Kniech, refusing to sign were Anne McGihon, District Seven and Stacie Gilmore,

Ditmer: Don’t mess with Denver parks

From Denver Post By Joanne Ditmer 02/22/2015

http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_27566397/ditmer-its-not-all-about-development

Burns Park in Denver is located in a triangle between South Colorado Boulevard, East Alameda Avenue and Leetsdale Drive.

Burns Park in Denver is located in a triangle between South Colorado Boulevard, East Alameda Avenue and Leetsdale Drive. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

One of the surest ways to earn eternal mistrust in Denver is to mess with our parks. Mayor Michael Hancock found that out in 2012 when he took 10 acres of the Hentzell Park Natural Area in Southeast Denver and gave it to Denver Public Schools to build an elementary school — on a flood plain. The parks advisory board had voted 11-6 against the giveaway. Two mayoral appointees on the board who were among those voting “nay” were replaced by the next meeting. In short order, the city found a way to transfer the land.

Parks got nothing in return, only a lawsuit filed by citizens. But from then on, the department and mayor have been viewed with suspicion, and subjected to complaints about lack of transparency. What else is in the works that we’re not being told?

Our urban parks are essential grace notes to the Queen City of the Plains. Early settlers in 1859 planned parks from the beginning, and we have 240 parks of almost 6,000 acres enriching our neighborhoods. Another 18 mountain parks offer 14,000 acres.

Denver is rated seventh in the nation for the quality of its park system by the Trust for Public Land, a respected national non-profit advocate that helps plan and support parks. But as our land mass and population grows, we must make sure that our park properties do, too. Denver has 6 percent of its land mass in parks; Colorado Springs has 14 percent.

The explosion of massive buildings in Cherry Creek, downtown, and all over the city, and the waves of newcomers make us wary of politicians who see parks as real estate, not as irreplaceable legacies.

Wellington Webb, Denver’s mayor from 1991 to 2003, knew parks were significant city assets, and added 2,350 acres on 15 sites during his tenure. It seems appropriate for a choice park parcel someday to be named in Webb’s honor.

A recent Denver Post article suggested that Burns Park, a 13-acre triangle of open land at Colorado Boulevard and Alameda Avenue, wasn’t earning its keep. It has a half dozen contemporary sculptures, circa 1960s, dozens of geese, an abundance of sunshine, and few human visitors. Some say it should be redesigned to attract people or be sold for development. But with an average of 38,636 vehicles passing by daily, motorists deserve the visual solace of the park. Burns is an oasis of natural open space in a commercial jungle.

Some say the “empty” space behind the Denver Center for the Performing Arts should get a building as well. That’s ignoring that the sweep of lawn is a rare visual grace note for occupants of the 59,738 vehicles passing daily.

The Hentzell parcel was taken supposedly because it was not an “officially” designated park, and thus not protected by Denver’s city charter, which stipulates that no land acquired by the city after Dec. 31, 1955, shall be deemed a “park” unless specifically designated by city ordinance. Perhaps more importantly, the charter says city parks may not be sold or given away without a vote of the people. Since 1936, the city had watered, planned and cared for Hentzell — with tax dollars — but it wasn’t a park?

Only 68 percent of Denver parks were “officially designated” in 2012. The department has raised the count to 83 percent, and plans to have all eligible parks officially designated this year. Very quietly, the Parks Department has begun holding some meetings with park neighbors and neighborhood organizations. Working together on important decisions is much more productive than going into battle.

And, after all, mayors come and go.