by Paul Kashmann
The decisions that guide the
course of our daily lives are not always simple and clear cut.
Black vs. white. Good vs. evil. Right vs. wrong. More frequently there are elements of substantial merit on both sides
of the question that should be considered and evaluated.
Priorities must be established so the
elements under consideration can be appropriately weighted to enable a judgment
to be made determining which side of the debate shall get the nod.
your kids be allowed to stay up late at night because family is visiting
out of town, even though it’s a school night? How do you weight the
rights of an individual homeowner in the face of the welfare of the
community? Should parents decide the fate of schools or is that the
right of adminstrators alone? Do developers develop at the behest of
the community, or is the community, in need of responsible development,
hostage by the developer? Do the inmates run the asylum? Does the end
the means? Does, “But you said!” hold any weight at all?
For any system of open debate to arrive at a
just conclusion, there must be full disclosure of information from both sides.
To intentionally hide a negative outcome for fear of weakening your case may be
effective in a con game, but in civic discourse it is inappropriate and
Intention – that word carries with it
such import. What is the prime directive at play? If the guiding principle is
anything other than a right decision, the process is flawed and the outcome in
Parents at Centennial, a K-8 school in
northwest Denver, as with parents anywhere, are anxious to see that their
children have the best opportunity possible for a quality education. You can
imagine their distress that they were given the information that their school was being
“redesigned,” and three-quarters of the faculty would be replaced, a day after
the choice period ended, negating the option of sending their children to
One Centennial parent equated the situation
to dressing in the darkness. Referring to the powers that be at Denver Public
Schools, he opined, “They expect us to choose our children’s future like I
choose my socks at 6a.m., in the dark, trying not to wake anyone. I owe my
children the duty of ensuring I fully understand what kind of school I am
putting them in.”
Clearly, the communication broke down
between district and school. An oversight? Perhaps. Purposely directed to limit
the possibility of a mass defection of families from Centennial? Could be. One
thing is for sure – the process was flawed, and one side feels
disrespected, and not heard.
Another thing is that intention is difficult to uncover.
To better control an onslaught of proposed
development in the Cherry Creek neighborhood, a committee of stakeholders was
assembled to create a guiding document as an appendix to the neighborhood plan,
similar to the creation of Blueprint Denver some years ago as an implementation
guide for the city’s more far-reaching Comprehensive Plan.
The group of residents, business owners and
city staffers drafted and published a white paper last year that addressed
issues critical to maintaining the health of the ever-evolving Cherry Creek
residential/commercial landscape. The white paper had a major test drive last
month when City Council was presented with a rezoning request for the old
Cherry Creek post office property at 245 Columbine St. The development proposal
substantially exceeded white paper guidelines in the critical areas of floor
area ratio (building size vs. lot size) and parking requirements. City Council
approved the rezoning 12-0.
Homeowners in the area feel disrespected and
not heard. With at least 14 more projects on the drawing board over the next
several years – and certainly more to come, residents question the weight
of the white paper they were led to believe would protect them from excesses
that would inexorably alter the quality of life they were striving to protect.
They wonder in which direction the city’s loyalty lies. The city feels that the
“spirit” of the white paper was honored, though a pair of most notable elements
were set aside. They count the developers as essential to the well-being of our city as the residents.
Different perspectives to
be sure. Was the white paper process simply an effort to pacify the
community? Or was the rezoning decision simply a case of one side weighing
things differently than the other? One person who pays attention to such
matters explained that the unanimous ballot may have
been a case of collegial voting. “Council tends to support the district council
member, so that when something comes up in their own backyard, the others will
return the support.”
If this is true, then we’ll never know the
true level of support for the issue. We hope it’s not. While Cherry Creek area
Councilwoman Jeanne Robb said that voting for the rezoning was a difficult
decision that she only made following the public hearing, there’s a chance the
decision was not as complex for others on the council. Intention.
Denver Public Schools is governed by a Board
of Education comprised of seven representatives. In recent years the board has
been divided 4-3, with the majority in near lockstep support of the reform
agenda of Superintendent Tom Boasberg, and the
minority frequently questioning his policies.
Northwest Denver board member Nate Easley,
aligned with the majority, resigned his post in January, leaving a vacancy that
could alter dramatically the balance of power on the school district board.
Policy demands that the remaining members agree on a replacement within 60
days, or board president, Mary Seawell, also allied
with the previous majority of four, will select Easley’s replacement.
DPS has a population of over 84,000 students
of which 58 percent are Hispanic. Though the open application process brought
25 applicants, only three were Hispanic, and none are among the finalists for
Easley’s seat – eight are black and one is white. None of the board
members selected a Hispanic candidate for the finals.
We do not believe that it is essential that
a Latino be selected, but we do believe the process would have better respected
the majority of the district’s student population if the search effort had made
a stronger commitment to representation of the Hispanic community.
The luck of the draw?
Maybe? Some sort of attempt to maintain the balance of power
on the board? No way to tell. Once again, intention is very difficult to