Presidents Message June 2016

Hello again my fellow neighborhood and city leaders, here we are in Denver 2016; I hope it’s going well for you and your communities as we begin the summer. As we take some time, during the Memorial Day weekend, to celebrate the sacrifices and mourn the ultimate sacrifices that our forbearers made to sustain our country, I am writing to tell you that the need for active citizens who are willing to give of themselves to better our city and our nation is as relevant today as it has ever been in our fair city.

We, the Denver INC and the City, had three major activities kick off this month that are going to strain the abilities and resources of the Denver INC and our fellow RNOs for more than a year to come. We have Denveright1, which is the major plan rewrite for land use, transportation, and our city parks. It is being coordinated by our mayor’s office and executed by our many neighborhood leaders and city managers. It is expected to take 18 months or more and will include many of our most active INC members. Also this month, the city council enacted new legislation that requires new marijuana industry licensing and transfer applications to include a community engagement plan that is focused on RNO outreach. This will be a major undertaking for many of our most affected community organizations. Finally, we have the ever-present issues of population increase and gentrification, which are being tackled with a whole host of actions being taken by both the mayor’s office and city council. In all of these activities, we, as neighborhood leaders, are being asked to include ourselves early in the process and help drive the outcomes. To take full benefit of these opportunities to shape policy in our city and to avoid burnout and missed opportunities, we as leaders, must engage more citizens to join in our efforts and increase the capabilities of the active members that we currently have.

Denveright1 is a community-driven planning process, whose importance could not be more evidenced than by the “all in” approach that the Denver INC is using to empower the processes success. Starting this month, five of our 9 INC committee chairs (Margie Valdez – ZAP; Joel Noble & Geneva Hooten – Transportation; and Cindy Johnstone & Maggie Price  – Parks) will be heavily engaged in making sure that Denveright1 is “doing right” by Denver. They are giving their time and talent to the taskforces that will rewrite Blueprint Denver, Denver Moves, and the Parks & Rec Game Plan. This will be a more than year-long process that will also include other RNO presidents and engaged citizens from across the city. This major undertaking will organize our City’s priorities and recommend how we should use our future resources to improve the lives and living conditions of Denver residents.

The new marijuana license “neighborhood engagement plan” requirement passed by City Council in April has also caused us, as RNOs, to take the lead in working with marijuana businesses to establish plans on how their businesses (retail, grow, and manufacturing facilities) can be better neighbors and help their neighborhoods rather than hurt them. In many ways, this is exactly what we have been asking for in INC – meaningful opportunities to have a seat at the table when plans are being made regarding land use that effects neighborhood quality of life. The problem we are anticipating is that many RNOs will not have the capacity to engage with these marijuana businesses in a robust way. That is why INC is kicking off a task force this month to create recommended best practices that RNOs can use to help guide the discussion when these marijuana businesses approach them. We know this will take a lot of work, but we have some new RNO representatives on our Board of Directors that are already beginning to kick off the process. If you’d like to get involved, please contact us. Also, try to use the opportunity created by this bill as a way to engage new neighbors in the neighborhood organization process. This could be a great way to recruit Denver citizens, who don’t normally participate, to join our cause and contribute to improving our neighborhoods.

Finally, as I have been processing through all the new information I now receive as president of INC, I have observed that our city is actively coming to terms with our governments’ addiction to growth over the last 10 years and our lack of investment in the needed infrastructure improvements to support it. Our status as the crown jewel of the Great Plains and largest city in the Inland West 2 are causing growing pains that are straining the very fabric of our community. The issues of short-term rentals and our aging sewer and drainage system will be addressed in city council this month as a culmination of many months of RNO and citizen engagement. Denver is a city that wants to keep remaking itself, and this time around, our city is looking to the Denver INC, the cities Registered Neighborhood RNO system3, and the great citizens of Denver to set the agenda and lead the change.

Be careful what you wish for, because we might just be getting it. The Denver INC has been asking for a seat at the table, and now I see us sitting at the table on so many important city initiatives for 2016, that our resources are strained. We, as neighborhood organizations, can’t raise taxes to buy consultants to help us, so we need to do something else to increase our resources and our abilities. We can recruit more neighbors through the summer activities that our organizations are establishing and hosting around the city. We can tell our neighbors about our unprecedented involvement in so many channels of positive action in the city. No one can be in two places at once, so that is why the only way to overcome our time constraint is to find more interested and hardworking neighbors to help us in our cause.

Have a great month and thank you all of your volunteer efforts to keep making our city a great place to live for all of Denver’s citizens. You are continuing to carry the flag of a free and democratic society that is run by the people and for the people. For that and so many other things, I’m grateful to be part of Denver with you.

John Joseph Niemann

[1] https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denveright.html

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/opinion/sunday/a-new-map-for-america.html?_r=0

[3] https://www.denvergov.org/cpd/CommunityPlanningandDevelopment/RegisteredNeighborhoods/tabid/444364/Default.aspx

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