Dec 2020 News Shorts: Stories From Around North Denver and Across The City

“La Raza Park” Vote Headed to Council

Councilwoman Sandoval’s effort to rename Columbus Park to La Raza Park is scheduled for a vote before the Denver City Council on December 21. The park, first called the Northside Playground, was renamed Columbus Park in 1931 in honor of Christopher Columbus at the urging of North Denver’s then large Italian-American population. Latino residents began informally calling the park La Raza Park as far back as at least the 1960s and several other council members tried unsuccessfully to officially rename the park since then. With the recent civil rights protests in Denver and across the country, there has been an increased interest in removing controversial historical figures such as Columbus from public locations. The phrase “La Raza” translates to either “The Race” or “The People.”

Residents interested in commenting on the change can sign up to speak remotely at the Dec. 21 meeting. For more information about the park’s history and potential renaming, check out The Denver North Star’s write up in the July 2020 edition available online.

Denver Police Will Get Raises Despite City Council Objections

When the City Council and the Mayor’s office couldn’t agree on the police contract, an independent arbitrator was brought in. That arbitrator sided with the police union and mayor’s position to give police officers a raise of close to 3% starting in 2022. The new contract does not include a pay raise for 2021, however. In comparison, most city agencies received cuts when the pandemic caused financial challenges and few are expected to see increases for several years at least. While the contract negotiations were regularly scheduled, the timing follows a summer of heated political debate and protests regarding police funding and the role of the police both locally and nationally.

Council voted 8-5 against the contract, including 4 of the 5 councilwomen who represent North and West Denver. Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval (D1 – NW Denver), Councilwoman Jamie Torres (D3 – West Denver), Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca (D9 – North Central Denver), and Councilwoman Robin Kniech (At-Large) all expressed concerns and voted against the contract. At-large councilwoman and North Denver resident Debbie Ortega voted in favor of the contract.

DPS Nominates Interim Superintendent

The Denver Public Schools Board of Education nominated Dwight Jones to serve as interim superintendent, filling the role left by departing Superintendent Susana Cordova who announced in November that she would be leaving DPS to take a position in Texas as a deputy superintendent in the Dallas Independent School District. Jones has previously served as Colorado Commissioner of Education, a district superintendent in Nevada, and is currently the Senior Deputy Superintendent for Equity and Engagement for DPS. Jones will take over the role at the beginning of the new year and will likely serve through July of 2021. Jones lives in Colorado Springs with his wife Jenifer. They have three children. The board is expected to vote to formalize Jones as interim superintendent on Dec. 17 and the district will conduct a search for a new superintendent who is expected to begin by the start of the 2021 school year. The Denver North Star will be following the search as developments occur.

Group Living Proposal Headed to Vote with Changes

Under current Denver law, no more than two unrelated people can live together. The regulations impact both traditional roommate arrangements and supervised group living homes such as halfway houses. Proponents for less restrictive regulations point to skyrocketing home prices, Denver’s housing crisis, and the acknowledgement that many younger and low income residents are already living with more than two unrelated people in a single home. The original proposal has been scaled back and revisions will likely allow around five unrelated people in one home. While rental prices have actually decreased very slightly in the pandemic, the changes may create more flexibility in North Denver’s hot market, allowing for more people to utilize existing “single family” homes as rentals or allowing a homeowner to rent unused bedrooms to help them stay in their home as costs increase.

The Land Use, Transportation, and Infrastructure (LUTI) Committee will discuss and vote on proposal changes on Dec 22 and the full council is likely to take up the issue early next year. Councilwoman Sandoval is Vice Chair of LUTI and Councilwomen CdeBaca and Torres are both members of the committee as well.

Denver Water Rates to Slightly Increase in 2021

The Denver Board of Water Commissioners adopted rate changes to help pay for the Lead Reduction program that began at the start of 2020. Denver Water estimates that most residents will see an increase of less than 70 cents per month based on current usage. While Denver Water doesn’t have lead pipes and the water delivered to homes is lead free, many homes, including in North Denver, still have lead lines that connect to the city lines. To read more about Denver Water’s lead reduction program, check out The Denver North Star’s write-up in the June 2020 edition available online.

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