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.
From The Examiner April 14, 2015
By Caryl 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,
Posted in City Council, elections, Hentzell Park Update, Park Advocates
Tagged City Charter, City Council, Colorado Court of Appeals, Courtesy Voting, courtesy zoning, Denver Charter, Denver Public Schools, Friends of Denver Parks
From the Examiner.com April 1, 2015
By: Caryl Buckstein
Denver Non-Profit Business Examiner
Original article is found here
A 2014 photo of contested park land shows Cherry Creek dam on the horizon in 2014. Denver Public Schools has since neared completion of an elementary school on the land. It recently announced the name of the school as Joe Shoemaker School. Friends of Denver Parks
The nonprofit Friends of Denver Parks filed a reply brief with the Colorado Court of Appeals this week, supporters announced on the organization’s web site on Tuesday, March 31. “The issue before the court is bigger than one park,” they wrote.
The organization asks the appellate court to declare that Hampden Heights North Park land is city park land, which cannot be sold to Denver Public Schools without the approval of Denver voters. The transfer of park land without a vote violates Denver Charter Section 2.4.5, the group alleges.
DPS began construction March 3, 2014 on the new elementary school. It recently announced the name as Joe Shoemaker School. The nonprofit alleges the school is located on floodplain declared unsafe by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2014.
“At stake is the right of Denver citizens to participate in their city government as the Charter requires,” nonprofit supporters said. They are requesting a jury trial to judge the merits of their claims.
Friends of Denver Parks contends Mayor Michael Hancock took 10.77 acres, the majority of Hampden Heights North Park. Nonprofit supporters held petition drives to take the issue to vote, but were turned away each time by City Clerk Debra Johnson. The park land was exchanged for office property owned by DPS.
Shoemaker School is one of 12 new charter schools and two district-run schools DPS will open in 2015. Another school, Rocky Mountain Prep, will open in southeast Denver. Rocky Mountain Prep had initially planned to open its school in the new building, the Chalkbeat Colorado news site reported last June. Shoemaker will have an expeditionary learning focus and will be district-run.