On May 15, Stapleton residents voted on whether to change the name of their registered neighborhood organization to Central Park United Neighbors or keep it Stapleton United Neighbors (SUN). The bylaws of the organization require 66 percent approval by in-person vote to make the change. Of 452 ballots cast, 58 percent were in favor—but since that did not meet the 66 percent threshold for a bylaw change, the name remains Stapleton United Neighbors.
The Front Porch posted the results of the SUN name vote on our Facebook page (Front Porch Newspaper) along with an invitation for the community to share their thoughts on the process and the outcome. With a 66 percent affirmative vote required by the bylaws, the 58 percent vote in favor did not meet the threshold to change the name. As of press time, our Facebook page had received over 1,800 views and approximately 60 comments plus several emails and comments on our website.
We reached out to SUN founding board members Bill Fulton and Elizabeth Garner by email to learn how the bylaws were originally created.
Fulton replied, “While we didn’t address the specific question of how to change the name of the neighborhood in those early days [of creating the bylaws], we did think a lot about how SUN should go about making unforeseen changes to its own ways of operating, and thus included a provision for amending the bylaws in the bylaws themselves. We chose what is a fairly standard threshold of a two-thirds majority of those voting at the annual meeting to be a high enough bar to make sure changes were not taken lightly, but that they would still be possible when warranted.”
Elizabeth Garner added, “We were using templates from the Neighborhood Resource Center…We did not develop the bylaws in a vacuum but incorporated information from neighborhood associations around the metro area.”
In response to the vote, Rename St*pleton for All, the activist group urging the change, said in a statement, “We thank everyone who came out to vote on Tuesday, those still on the fence, and even those who voted no. To the growing community of people who are willing to work toward a more welcoming, equitable neighborhood, we have this message: Our work is not done.”
Many Commented on the Process
Forcing the vote to be in-person during a very small time window meant people who wanted to vote could not do so. I felt it set up a high probability of loss for people who want to have the name changed.
–Caroline Lim Starbird
Voting has to be inclusive of all members of Stapleton, not just those who go to the meeting, in order to have fair representation. –Rick Henry
I would like to emphasize that the SUN board members (who are all volunteers with jobs and families) worked in good faith to listen to the community in bringing this to a vote. –Caley M. Orr
This is a multi-step process. Ask if residents are willing to remove the name Stapleton. Facilitate focus groups, conduct surveys and interviews to determine a new more fitting name for the community next and then offer the residents two or three options from which to choose. Make this a separate question and create excitement about the options. Validate the final selections before offering a broad vote for a new name. The new name is as important as the one you want to remove. –Edie Revi
It’s About Finding a Better Alternative
Why not have a weighted vote for our top three favorites, awarding 5 points for first choice, 3 for second and 1 for third per ballot, then take the highest point total? This binary choice with a supermajority option seems highly biased.
I’m sure that many would agree with me that they are resistant to vote for any name which they don’t want representing the community at large, irrespective of the motivations behind all this. Voting on the name and voting on whether or not to change it are two very separate issues. Conflating them into a single vote is a mistake. –Thom Westergren
I find it hard to believe CPUN was the best name they could come up with. Why not poll the community for better names? How many places do we need named Central Park in Denver?
I really hope we keep talking about how to be an inclusive and welcoming community. I personally believe that another community name is an important step in that direction, but it is far from the only step. –Molly Ferensic
Just leave it. This tearing down statues and name changing is getting old and has no impact on people whatsoever. No one is perfect. Heck if we do this let’s rename Martin Luther King Blvd while we are at it, because he had flaws as well. In fact tear down all monuments, rename everything so a few can feel satisfied. –Richard Caldwell
This journey has opened up so many great teaching moments as a parent, ranging from being a good steward of one’s civic duty and voting, to what we want our family to stand for.
The Effort Will Continue
If simple acts like changing a community name signals an intent to listen to requests from Black Lives Matter, and the Native American, Jewish, Asian, and Latino neighbors who have asked for a change, it’s worth it. If it signals an intent to understand the past, to take a step toward creating a more welcoming community (one envisioned by the Green Book), then 30 minutes to cast a vote was worth it. While 58% yes votes didn’t change the name this time, hopefully, the future will bring change.
I firmly believe the final numbers though reflect our larger reality as a culture right now…more people are on board with doing the morally right thing than clinging to a painful past for many. This effort was lost, but the greater effort is worth fighting for every single day. –Schelli Nimz
For white folks who oppose a name change because Denver’s KKK history doesn’t affect you and because you think you already live in a welcoming & inclusive community, I urge you to open your eyes and ears to the experiences of our neighbors of color–both here in 80238 *and* in the neighborhoods that surround us. –Liz Stalnaker