1.) A Line Horns
On Sept. 28, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approved the A Line’s Positive Train Control (PTC) system based on the timing level they have achieved. However, the system still has to be approved by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which last fall rejected RTD’s request for approval.
The PUC appointed an administrative law judge to do a third party investigation of RTD’s request to amend warning times at crossings. Scott Reed, RTD assistant general manager, communications, explained that appointing an administrative law judge is an unusual, and likely positive, move in this process. In mid-February, RTD presented testimony and evidence to the judge to support an extension of up to 15 seconds from the originally-approved warning times along its A and G commuter lines. They also asked to remove the requirement to post flaggers at each crossing. The judge will make a recommendation to the PUC. Reed says he does not know at this time whether the judge will have further questions or requests for information, or whether he’ll make a definitive response based on what’s been presented.
Terry Bote from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Affairs told the Front Porch by email that PUC commissioners will determine, based on the evidence RTD presented to the judge, whether it is in the public interest to grant the requested changes. A PUC decision is expected to be issued in March.
2.) DSST Aurora Charter to Open at Fitzsimons
Aurora Public Schools (APS) announced last month that the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) charter network will open its first charter school in Aurora at the Fitzsimons Innovation Campus.
The Fitzsimons Redevelopment Agency (FRA) unanimously approved the proposal to locate the DSST on the Fitzsimons site. APS Superintendent Rico Munn said in a memo about the plan, “The location of an APS school on the Fitzsimons campus is an amazing opportunity. The proximity to the world class facilities at Anschutz provides for unique learning opportunities and access for all of APS’ students across the District.”
Originally, DSST had been in talks with APS to locate its first Aurora site adjacent to Fletcher Community School. The Fletcher site is located near the new Stapleton housing developed in Aurora, just east of the Stanley Marketplace on 25th Ave., but the purchase of the site was tied up in legal proceedings. According to Munn’s memo, the Fletcher site was also more expensive than the Fitzsimons site.
APS still has a long term interest in the site adjacent to Fletcher but has ceased current acquisition efforts. The Fitzsimons location in northwest Aurora site means the DSST school will still enroll students from an area with one of the highest concentrations of poverty in APS.
It is still unclear how the new building will be paid for, as Munn had offered to use bond money to pay for half the building. DSST had not committed to paying for the other half, although it is partnering with APS to fundraise for it, according to reporting by Chalkbeat. Construction is slated to begin in spring of 2019.
3.) March for Science–Denver Information Meeting—March 17
Last year 15,000 to 20,000 people gathered in Civic Center Park to celebrate science at March for Science–Denver. This year, the all-volunteer-organized event will be held on April 14, 2018—and thousands are again expected.
Last year’s march was one of the largest such gatherings in the world according to Lis Cohen, president of March for Science–Denver. Stapleton residents Cohen and Keven Hennegan will meet with community members at Sam Gary Library to share their passion for science and its importance in our community. Hennegan, one of the volunteer organizers, says, “I feel it is my obligation, as a scientist and a citizen, to speak out when science is ignored, or worse yet, silenced.” Another volunteer, Kendra Uhl of Arvada believes science has been used as a tool of oppression in the past—so she marches “to elevate marginalized communities.” She adds, “Going forward I think we have to do whatever we possibly can to bring equity to science. Advocating for evidence-based policies is necessary to uplift marginalized communities, because we know that bad science and climate change will affect them disproportionately.”
To learn more about the march and/or sign up to be a volunteer, attend the meeting at Sam Gary Branch library on March 17 from 9:30 to 11:30am, email lis@MFSdenver.org, or visit www.MarchForScienceDenver.org.
4.) March 10 Forum-—The Future of Park Hill Golf Course
If the Park Hill Golf Course operator does not renew its lease, what will be the future use of those 155 prime acres near I-70 and Colorado Blvd? Planned urban development or continued use as a golf course? A group of citizens has organized a forum on March 10 to help community members be informed participants in rezoning decisions if the golf course operator does not renew its lease by June 30.
The panel will include representatives from nearby registered neighborhood associations and the executive director of Clayton, which leases the land. City officials say they appreciate being invited to participate but respectfully decline. They add that their only plans for the property, at this point, involve a flood-protection and storm-drainage project. Councilmembers Brooks and Herndon say they already had other obligations scheduled at the time they were invited to the meeting so they will not be able to attend.
See story on page 18 to learn more about the about the landowner, the City’s development rights to the land, and the range of opinions on the land’s future use.
The forum will take place at 1pm at the Park Hill Congregational Church, 2600 Leyden St.
5.) Possible Sale of Forest City
Bloomberg News reports that since September Forest City Realty Trust Inc. has been considering a sale or merger and is now in talks with Brookfield Asset Management Inc., Canada’s largest alternative-asset manager. Forest City, the Stapleton master developer, says on its website they have, for months, been reviewing “strategic alternatives to enhance stockholder value, including, but not limited to, an accelerated and enhanced operating plan, structural alternatives for the company’s assets, and potential merger, acquisition or sale transactions. There is no timetable for completion of this review, and there can be no assurance that this review will result in a strategic change or any transaction being announced or agreed upon. The company will not comment further on the progress or status of the review unless the company determines that further disclosure is appropriate or required by law.”
In the November Front Porch, we reported that the Shops at Northfield had been sold to QIC (Queensland Investment Corporation), a large investment company owned by the Queensland, Australia government.
6.) Wildlife Refuge/Arsenal Information and History Series Begins March 15
Correction 3/9/18: This event will be held at the Stapleton Master Community Association office (the Cube) at 8371 Northfield. Blvd. (across the street from Macy’s) at 5:30pm. It is free and open to the public.
David Lucas, Refuge Manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will introduce the refuge and its inhabitants. He will summarize the recreational and educational opportunities on this federally protected 27-square mile wildlife habitat.
Kip Cheroutes will tell the history of how the refuge came to be. As staff aide to U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder from 1978 – 1994 he with many others guided the transformation of the land from a U.S. Army arsenal to a wildlife refuge. The visitors center is named in her honor.
A second event, date to be announced will preview summertime activities at the refuge and will detail the history of the environmental remediation there. That event date will be announced later.
The third event, on September 6, 2018, will conclude with reflections by State Historian Patricia Limerick of the University of Colorado’s Center for The New West. She will share her appreciation for the legacy of Colorado’s high plains that Stapleton and the refuge share.
NE Schools Apply for New DPS Innovation Zones
DPS recently announced that schools can apply to be in Innovation Zones, a designation that allows schools to operate with greater autonomy from the district. Already DPS allows schools to have innovation status, meaning they have more school-level control than traditional schools in areas like budget, calendar and curriculum. But the Innovation Zone model provides even more freedom. DPS already has one innovation zone, called the Luminary Learning Network.
Schools applying to form new innovation zones can apply to operate in a zone that is overseen by a nonprofit organization, as is done in the Luminary Learning Network. The other option is for the schools to form a zone overseen by the district but still operating with increased autonomy.
“The reason we would join a zone is to increase our flexibility with the budget and align our professional learning objectives across schools,” Swigert principal Shelby Dennis explained via email.
Schools in either type of zone would have more control over the budget and what services they choose to get from DPS. If governed by a nonprofit, the schools would report to its board; if district-run, they would still report to DPS administration.
Five NE Denver schools have applied to join an “innovation zone” within DPS, joining eight other schools district-wide who are seeking that status. The thirteen schools have asked either to join the district’s innovation zone or to band together in different configurations to create zones of their own.
The NE Denver schools are High Tech Elementary, Isabella Bird Community School, Swigert International School, McAuliffe International School and Northfield High School. These schools are already innovation schools, meaning they enjoy more school-level control over things like budget, calendar and curriculum than traditional schools.