The first two dominoes fell in December. Now, another one may soon fall.
The controversy over the Stapleton name will come to a head again on Tuesday when residents vote on whether or not to change the name of the registered neighborhood organization.
Stapleton United Neighbors is giving local residents an opportunity to decide whether the group should change its name to Central Park United Neighbors during its annual community forum. The vote comes after renewed interest in a name change, which it takes from former Denver mayor and Ku Klux Klan member Benjamin F. Stapleton.
“The SUN board has not issued a position on the vote and remains neutral on its outcome; we hope for wide participation so that the outcome best reflects the community’s preferences, as we are charged with acting on issues of importance to the community as a whole,” Board President Amanda Allshouse said in an email.
SUN’s potential name change would mark the third change involving the Stapleton name. Two local organizations, the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities and Citizens Advisory Board , both dropped the name from their titles in December.
But unlike those two changes, this one would be the direct result of input from community members.
“This is the first time the vote is going out to the community,” Rename St*pleton For All co-president Genevieve Swift said.
Swift said the group has advocated for a name change while educating people on the name’s history. The name carries “a piece of white supremacy that is in our daily lives and has been normalized.”
Removing the name has been a polarizing topic pitting against each other residents who believe the name harkens back to a dark period in Colorado, people who purchased homes in the neighborhood without any knowledge of the name’s history and those who want to redeem the name. The Stapleton name has also provoked ire as the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver plans to rename the Downtown Denver YMCA for Benjamin F. Stapleton Jr., the former mayor’s son and former board chair of the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver.
SUN board member Mandle Rousseau said the name change has been “an ongoing conversation.” He joined the board earlier this year and attended meetings like the one in December to discuss the possibility of a neighborhood name change.
Rousseau said he remembers Black Lives Matter calling for the name change a few years back, a move he believes initiated the current dialogue. That mostly died down, but it resurfaced last year, buoyed by efforts from groups like Rename St*pleton For All following the events in Charlottesville in August.
“It started back up around my time, then there was a small survey that SUN put together and based on that survey and some of the community input, we decided that we should go ahead and initiate an opportunity to vote on the name change,” Rousseau said.
A survey conducted by SUN showed about 54 percent of Stapleton residents weren’t interested in name change discussion, according to CBS Denver, while more than 51 percent were “somewhat comfortable” with the name. Just 10 percent said they were “completely uncomfortable” with the name.
Swift said those figures have prompted a lot of speculation over how voters may lean, but they won’t have a concrete answer until the vote.
“It’s something that I really commend them for doing,” Swift said about SUN’s vote. “They’ve really been listening.”
Voting will be open throughout the meeting on Tuesday, so you don’t have to stick around for the entire forum.
Tuesday’s community forum will take place at The Cube (8371 Northfield Blvd.) instead of the Central Park Recreation Center, where SUN board meetings are usually held. It’s a larger space; does this mean SUN is expecting a large turnout?
“I have no idea. There’s really no way for me to tell,” Rousseau said. Board members floated around the idea of requiring voters to show IDs, but that idea was dropped since not every resident will have IDs with current addresses. It would have made Rousseau himself ineligible; he said his ID still has his former Park Hill neighborhood address.
Still, you need to be a Stapleton resident — and not necessarily a homeowner — for your vote to count. Voters must also be 18 or older to be eligible.
Ballots will be accepted throughout the forum’s duration, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. These ballots will be available and collected in the foyer at The Cube.
According to SUN’s website, the ballots won’t be anonymous: You will be required to fill in your name, address and signature, which Rousseau said helps SUN verify eligible voters. While the votes won’t be anonymous, SUN says on its website they will be confidential and information on the votes won’t be released.
There likely won’t be a vote tally that night. Rousseau said they won’t have time to count and verify all the ballots.
“We anticipate that a tally will be ready by the next monthly meeting,” SUN Allshouse said in an email.
SUN’s next schedule meeting is June 19.
For Swift, and surely other community members, next week’s vote evokes the work of the late Gregory Diggs. Diggs was a vocal community leaders who advocated for the name change. Swift said thinking about him and his work often brings her to tears.
“We’ll see how it goes. We’re really hopeful,” Swift said. “I know that I’ll be really nervous that day. … Hopefully I’ll be celebrating.”