More than 450 ballots were cast Tuesday for a vote deciding whether to change the name of a Stapleton registered neighborhood organization, marking the latest community attempt to come to terms with the legacy of one Denver’s most controversial former mayor.
The ballot asked residents if Stapleton United Neighbors should change their name to Central Park United Neighbors. The movement to change the name is motivated by community concerns over the legacy of Benjamin F. Stapleton and his membership in the Ku Klux Klan.
Voting started shortly before 6 p.m. at the Cube, a community center on Northfield Blvd., with a line already formed by the time SUN Board President Amanda Allshouse arrived with 500 paper ballots.
“We’re doing OK so far, but who knows,” Allshouse said about 10 minutes after voting started.
By the time voting ended shortly after 8:30, fewer than 50 paper ballots remained. Residents will need to be patient to learn the official results: Allshouse said they won’t be available until next month’s SUN meeting.
Changing the name would require at least 66 percent of respondents answering “yes” to the question on the ballot. Allshouse said this threshold is outlined by SUN’s bylaws.
Only residents who live in Stapleton who were older than 18 were eligible to vote. SUN will need need to verify addresses provided by voters, which was a requirement on the ballot. (While voting wasn’t anonymous, the organization has pledged to keep voters’ choices confidential.)
Rename St*pleton For All, which supports dropping the name from the neighborhood altogether, had a few volunteers conducting exit polling on Tuesday. The organization’s co-president Genevieve Swift said results wouldn’t be available Tuesday evening, though some pollsters said they felt more people had voted “yes” rather than “no.”
Swift said people were fired up for the vote, which the group saw as the first opportunity to have a wider, community-focused referendum on the name.
“I’m looking forward to hearing how this turns out,” Swift said. “It’s a success that we’ve gotten this far in such a short amount of time.”
Most people who responded to pollsters on Tuesday seemed to suggest they voted to support the name change. Opinions were still mixed.
Among the early voters was Dr. Christal Rousseau, who said she’s been a Stapleton resident for 10 years. She voted in favor of the name change, calling the potential change “a step in the right direction.”
“I think it’s very important to give a voice to people concerned about the history,” Rousseau said.
The vote meant the community is being considerate of other people’s experience, Rousseau said. She first learned about the reason behind the proposed change about three years ago.
Ron Adams saw things differently. He voted no on the name change and said SUN’s resources could be better used to increase diversity and affordable housing in Stapleton. He said he found it frustrating that the group Rename St*pleton For All had “clogged up” board meetings with their message.
Adams hoped Tuesday’s vote, “put an end” to the renaming controversy.
“It’s not about the man anymore, it’s about the community,” Adams said. He added later: “The guy died 90 years ago. Give it a rest.”
Kathleen Reynolds, who said she’s lived in Stapleton for about six months, said she voted yes on Tuesday.
“I think Stapleton did not stand for the values we have, therefore, the name should not be in our community,” Reynolds said.
Andrew Schurger has lived in Stapleton for 10 years. He said he voted no on the name change, adding that he felt Stapleton was founded with the intent to support diversity. Schurger, who is white, said he has African-American neighbors who have no problem with the name
“In order to move beyond it, not abandon it, (the community) should focus on making it inclusive to all members,” Schurger said.
If the vote is successful, SUN would join a growing list of organizations that have nixed Stapleton from their name.
- SDC, formally Stapleton Development Corporation. They changed their name in April.
- The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities, formerly the Stapleton Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities. They changed their name in December.
- Citizens Advisory Board, formally the Stapleton Citizens Advisory Board. They changed their name in December.