What’s Next?” is the question we’ve heard since the Dec. 11 community-wide listening sessions about keeping or changing the Stapleton name. Five organizations that contribute to the community in different ways sponsored the two sessions, one afternoon and one evening, to get a sense of community views on the subject. All five organizations have Stapleton associated with their names. See what people are saying here: What Are People Saying?
Four of Stapleton’s community organizations have it within their power to change their name. Two have already done it.
Four days after the listening sessions, the Stapleton Foundation issued a press release that they had dropped Stapleton from their name and will begin doing business as “The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities” effective January 1, 2018. CEO Landri Taylor says the new name better reflects the scope of the foundation’s work, which has grown beyond Stapleton. The Foundation’s press release thanks those who “have brought focus to the Stapleton name and its relationship to the old airport’s namesake, Ben Stapleton and his connection to the Ku Klux Klan.” Taylor, however, emphasizes that The Foundation’s priorities will continue in the areas of healthy living, affordable housing and education with particular emphasis toward eliminating the achievement gap experienced by the majority of kids in northeast Denver Public Schools. Taylor believes spending time and energy on the community name change distracts from these core community challenges.
Stapleton Citizens Advisory Board (CAB)
In a 3 – 2 vote, CAB approved a resolution at their Dec. 21 meeting that the group would drop Stapleton from its name, ask Forest City to stop using it in their marketing (though recognizing it may need to be used legally), and acknowledged that the naming issue can be effective in bringing more attention to the kind of community Stapleton intends to be as described in the Green Book—socially diverse, inclusive, broad-based and welcoming.
Nadine Caldwell and Alice Kelly, each of whom have been on CAB and SDC for over 25 years opposed the motion. Kelly explained, “Rather than spending a lot of time changing the name, I suggest that the energies that are going toward this go to helping make this community more diverse. You work on affordable housing, you help kids feel safer in their schools, and help residents understand and appreciate each other and their ethnicities.
One is laying the groundwork that would make a change possible.
Stapleton United Neighbors (SUN)
Amanda Allshouse, SUN president writes in this month’s SUN Spot (see page 28), “The board has discussed that although the call for SUN to change its name is not coming from the majority of the community, it is still within SUN’s charge to propose an action to the community based on the strength and nature of this voice. Over the coming weeks, the SUN board will begin preparing a proposed change in the SUN by-laws, which is the mechanism by which SUN would remove Stapleton from its name.
One has plans to talk about it.
Stapleton Development Corporation (SDC)
SDC Board Chair Pat Teegarden said, by email, he expects the board will have a discussion about the name at their next meeting in late January. President and CEO Tammi Holloway says the organization has not received feedback on this issue from the community, but starting many years ago, the organization, for convenience, chose to use its acronym, SDC, rather than its full name.
Teegarden says, “We are certainly pleased that…using SDC…also prevents our organization’s name from being perceived as offensive to others or a distraction to our more pressing goals with respect to affordable housing and other key issues facing the community.” He adds that he’s personally comfortable with the community being named after the old airport, but if it’s a barrier to achieving a community identity of diversity and inclusiveness, then it’s fine to have another name.
Terry Whitney, currently an SDC board member who also served on CAB for many years, says he does not personally favor a name change because he believes it is action—the right kind of action—that’s important. He’d prefer to see people spending their time helping at schools where students really need the extra support.
The fifth organization is legally bound to the name Stapleton and changing that name would be more difficult.
Master Community Association, Inc.
The MCA is tied to legal documents that define the geographic area it serves (as well as regulations about how it operates) —and that geographic area is legally named Stapleton. It’s possible to change the name, says MCA Executive Director Keven Burnett, but the first hurdle is that the geographic area the MCA represents must have a name—so the change process would require a simultaneous decision on a new name.
At least three routes to changing the name are legally possible, says Burnett. (1) Sixty-six percent of all owners would have to vote in favor of changing Stapleton to a designated new name. (2) The Stapleton neighborhood has 10 elected delegates to the MCA. A delegate could request to put a name change on the agenda and have a vote on the issue. If the majority of delegates agreed, the recommendation would be passed on to the MCA board, which, as of Jan. 1, 2018, is made up of three residents and two representatives of master developer Forest City. If the board approved, then the master developer would need to approve the recommendation in order for it to take effect. (3) The MCA Board could put a name change on their agenda for a vote. If the board approved the change, again, the master developer would have to give final approval. (Burnett points out that residents can bring concerns about the community to the attention of MCA staff, board members and delegates through the MCA website at StapletonCommunity.com.)
A fourth option may be the entity that assigned the name in the first place, says Burnett. The DenverGov.org website says: “The Statistical Neighborhood boundaries were developed in 1970 by the Community Renewal Program (CRP), which was administered by the current Denver Department of Community Planning and Development. Statistical neighborhoods are typically combinations of census tracts. Geographic place names…were assigned to each area and reflect commonly used names of subdivisions and historical parts of the city.”
But it’s not just about the name…
A recurring theme among longtime members of the community groups quoted above is a concern that changing the name doesn’t bring Stapleton closer to the goals in the Green Book that describes the vision for Stapleton.
One of the observations by Dr. Nita Moseby Tyler, who moderated the Dec. 11 sessions, is “a substantial number of the speakers agreed that changing the name was not the final solution. There was agreement that there would need to be strong community focus to tackle gentrification, racism and the lack of racial diversity in the community. The name change, alone, would not solve those issues.”