As I look back on the last year, I see it marked by transformation. On Friday, March 13th, Denver Public Schools (DPS) closed for three weeks for the first time in history. Then, ten days later, Mayor Hancock issued a stay-at-home order and the world as we knew it changed forever.
In the early days of the stay-at-home order, like many others I hoped we would soon go back to pre-COVID 19 life. Maybe, just maybe, our daughter would go back to her senior year at North High School and graduate as we had planned. Maybe our son would return to his freshman year at North High and be able to play his first year of high school-level lacrosse–a milestone which we had all looked forward to for the past four years. But as the rate of the virus increased, our hopes for normalcy began to shrink while my concern for our elders in our community, our small local businesses, our first responders, our teachers, and our essential workers only grew and grew.
When I was elected in July of 2019, I could not have imagined that an entire year of our lives would be shaped by a global pandemic. This experience has touched every person and every aspect of life in some way. And while it has been incredibly hard at times, I have grown personally and professionally more than I ever thought possible.
This past year has also created new friendships and alliances. Prior to COVID-19, I knew our State Representative, Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, our State Senator, Julie Gonzales, our DPS Board Director, Brad Laurvick, and our RTD Board member, Angie Malpiede, but never had we collaborated. United by our concern for our constituents, we organically formed the North & West Side Elected Leaders Collation which included our Westside delegates, DPS Board Director Angela Cobian, Westside Councilwoman Jamie Torres and At-Large Councilwoman Debbie Ortega. Throughout the Stay-at-home order my mornings started with a check-in with our North & West Elected Leaders discussing how we could support each other and our constituents.
One of our first actions was to reach out to those who were 65 years and older to offer assistance and connect them to resources. We also began hosting virtual town-halls to share pertinent COVID-19 information. These individuals were there for me through the daily rollercoaster of our new normal and together we lifted each other up through listening, discussion and support. I found a new sense of resilience and I will be forever thankful for this bond. I am heartened by knowing that many good, beautiful things will be as lasting as the difficult impacts of the pandemic.
Many of the projects we were working on in my office suddenly had to be re-evaluated. We had to be creative to figure out how to make progress. My staff adjusted to their new routine of working remotely. Although extremely lonely at times, they stepped up and together we found inspiration through service. I am so grateful that, in addition to its challenges, this year has been full of incredibly meaningful milestones. We rezoned all of Chaffee Park Neighborhood to allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), continued our work on the Harkness Heights Bungalow Conservation Overlay (41st – 44th, Lowell Blvd – Federal Blvd) as well as the Active Center and Corridors Design Overlay to ensure active street use along Tennyson Street from 38th – 46th and other small commercial corridors in the Regis & Berkeley Neighborhoods. We engaged over 100 volunteers for a Northwest Denver Park clean-up, ran a donation campaign for Bienvenidos food bank that raised over ten thousand dollars, continued to hold office hours (now virtual) to ensure we heard from our neighbors, collaborated with community on the renaming of Columbus Park to La Raza Park, marched in solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement, and delivered personal protective equipment kits to small businesses.
As this year comes to end, I am reminded why I ran for office: as the famous poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” I have personally witnessed the power of our community coming together and countless selfless acts of giving to those in need. The bonds we have created in 2020 will be a foundation we use in the future when we can reconnect face-to-face and gather without fear.
There is an end in sight. One day we will have a vaccine and be on the other side of this pandemic. Until then, please wear a mask, social distance, and keep each other safe.
Councilwoman Amanda P. Sandoval