On the National Western, Denver City Council says the community can have a voice even without an extra vote

Denver City Council on Monday moved forward the framework agreement that will govern the redevelopment of the National Western Center.

Shae Finigan at the CPRA rodeo Finals at the National Western Complex. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

A non-voting member can have a lot of power, Council President Albus Brooks told community members who had advocated for a second neighborhood member on the board that will oversee redevelopment of the National Western Center.

Denver City Council on Monday moved forward a framework agreement that creates the authority that will oversee redevelopment at the National Western Center and operate the new facility for the next 50 years.

The agreement, which requires final approval next week, calls for an 11-member board with six members appointed by Mayor Michael Hancock; two members each from the National Western Stock Show Association and Colorado State University, which are partners in the project; and one member representing the neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria and Swansea.

A second non-voting member from the community was added to the framework agreement in response to neighborhood feedback. Last week, however, members of a citizens advisory committee voted to ask that there be two voting members from the community — the same as the other non-city partners.

During a public hearing on Monday, community members reiterated that desire for representation.

“Everyone is talking about the change like it’s going to be a beautiful thing, and there will be money coming in and maybe more jobs, but it’s going to be very impactful,” said Mercedes Gonzalez, a Globeville resident. “There’s going to be noise and traffic, there might be more danger for our children and delays in getting to work. We’re going through high rents and displacement.”

Globeville resident Rey G. said having additional representation would help bridge the divide between residents who are more supportive of the project and those who have been skeptical of its benefits and would get the community more fully on board.

But Globeville resident A.E. (that’s how she prefers to appear in print) said the community will continue to have a say — through the advisory committee, which will continue to meet, through the group that works on how to spend money from a community benefit fund, through the voting member and through the non-voting member.

“The city acted in good faith and was nay-sayed by people who perhaps don’t understand that the public can have a voice at any point in the process,” she said. The addition of a non-voting member “provides a solution that would not compromise the advancement of this mechanism at a time when it needs to be advanced.”

And nearly everyone feels like it’s important to move forward.

Until the framework agreement is approved and the authority that will run the National Western is formally created, the city can’t establish this community benefit fund and start holding events to generate revenue for it.

The non-voting member will be able to attend all meetings, including executive sessions, and will be able to vote if the voting member from the community can’t attend a meeting.

Brooks said he plans to facilitate a meeting between community residents and the mayor to ask for one of the mayor’s six appointments to be a resident or business owner from Globeville or Elyria-Swansea.

He asked community members to organize to present potential names and, more importantly, the qualities and characteristics they want to see in the mayor’s appointments.

Kelly Leid, executive director of the Office of the National Western Center, stressed that the authority will serve as the fiscal agent, with responsibility for the effective administration of hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment.

Anne Hayes of Westfield Properties, one of three advisory committee members who opposed the addition of a second voting member from the community, said community voices are important, but so is the expertise to carry out the project — and an 11-seat board doesn’t leave that much room to get all the right people at the table.

“A lot of people are putting a lot on the line, and it has to be executed in a way that is disciplined and successful,” she said.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.