Community leaders and wonks from across the city are banding together behind a new organization that aims to challenge Denver on what it means to be a world-class city.
“It’s not a $2 billion lobby at an airport that makes you a great city,” said Brad Segal, president of Progressive Urban Management Associates. “It’s about, ‘Do you have the opportunity to go to a decent public school, and then get a job and afford a place to live?'”
Segal joined forces with affordable housing developer Kimball Crangle and the executive director of Youth on Record, Jami Duffy, last year to start the 501c4 nonprofit All in Denver. The group has attracted nearly 200 members so far and hopes to be an unrelenting voice calling for “an equitable city.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock centers his goals and priorities around the idea of Denver being “a world-class city where everyone matters.” It’s a good idea in theory, according to the co-chairs of All in Denver, but it’s not being carried out in practice.
All in Denver calls for city officials to rethink the way they’re planning and investing. The group advocated for underserved areas receiving most of the money from the 2017 Go Bond, wants the land use and transportation plan Blueprint Denver to be a strategy for a “more equitable and diverse city” and is working on an affordable housing bond for the 2018 ballot.
“How can we take the same energy that we’ve had for the last 30 years with these big projects and start putting it into things that start helping and create opportunity — opportunity to continue to live in this city and not get priced out of your home? Opportunity to get a job here on a new project that comes up. All sort of things,” Segal said.
A Third Voice
All in Denver considers itself “a third voice” between Denver’s elite establishment that upholds the status quo and a new rising anti-growth sentiment.
“There are so many people in the last two years specifically that have looked up and said, ‘What the fuck is happening to our city? What’s all this development that’s happening? Who’s being helped? Who’s being hurt?'” Crangle said. “We’re kind of the group coming in and saying, ‘There is an equity conversation that should be happening here, and we get to become the city that we want to become.'”
“We don’t have to stay on the track that is 100 percent change. We don’t have to stop everything. We get to be intentional about how Denver continues to evolve as a city,” she said.
The trick is getting people to engage in the process and to move beyond a group that simply complains about development or city policies on affordable housing.
“Most elections will prove this true: It’s much more powerful to be for something than against something,” Jami Duffy said. “I’ve seen that with All in Denver. We don’t ever complain without offering a solution, without offering an action, without giving some kind of call to action.”
In its second year, Duffy and other folks behind All in Denver are looking for ways to increase member participation. Part of that could look like consulting for other organizations on how to address city officials, even on issues on which All in Denver hasn’t taken a stand. The group has already provided coaching of Amplify Arts Denver and promoted awareness of issues around the need for safe artist spaces in the city, she said.
“Democracy is a participation sport, but there are a lot of people not participating,” Duffy said. “I believe the more people we get involved, the more people who get engaged, the more reflective this city will be of what we all want.”
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