DENVER (CBS4) – The Master Community Association of Stapleton will ask its members to vote on whether to change the name of the neighborhood in its governing documents this summer. This, as concern over the name “Stapleton” grows among residents because of the former Denver mayor’s membership with the Ku Klux Klan.
“We need the community to decide,” said Keven Burnett, the executive director of the MCA Stapleton.
The association operates and manages many public assets of the neighborhood including parks and pools. Its governing documents established the neighborhood and currently refer to the community as “Stapleton” but also give direction on how to change the name in the future. Members include residential, commercial, and apartment property owners.
The discussion comes as both the Stapleton Foundation and DSST: Stapleton School changed their names to the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities and DSST: Montview respectively. The community is made up of 30,000 people, according to the MCA.
The referendum going before voting members will give them a 50-day window beginning around June 12 to vote on multiple issues related to the name of the neighborhood. Ballots will be due by July 31. The guidelines for the association require property owners to have a voting say in this type of issue, leaving out renters in the neighborhood.
“It gives people who live in the community the power to determine the future of their community,” said Liz Stalnaker, board chair of Rename St*pleton For All. “I am supportive of the effort to change this name.”
The rename organization was formed in 2017 and has given guidance on all four issues on this ballot for property owners. They encourage voters to supporting changing the name but not a special assessment that would allocate resources toward finding a new name.
They want to encourage discussion on finding a process to determine a new name, the third issue on the ballot asks voters what the new name should before for the neighborhood. They also want voters to oppose the fourth ballot question asking if the “community declaration” allowing for a name change should be removed.
“Deciding powers like that really do like in the hands of property owners,” Burnett explained about eligible voters.
He estimates around 10,000 people are voting members of the MCA. Stapleton is the largest neighborhood in Denver and he says the more people who turnout, the easier it will be to gain support from city leaders regardless of the decision.
“We hope we can get a return of over 50%, we would really like to see those type of numbers so we can truly understand what direction this community wants to go,” he said. “Trying to find that consensus will be very difficult so we imagine that process may take a year if not longer.”
But Rename does worry about leaving out the people most impacted by the current name. They may not be owners but still live in the neighborhood. They could also only represent a minority of the people living in Stapleton but find the name more offensive than others.
“People of color in the community do not make the majority of this community and yet they feel the harm the most,” said Stalnaker.
The neighborhood and old airport are named after the former Denver mayor who was a known member of the KKK. Opponents of the current name say his contributions to the city and its growth do not outweigh his membership with the white supremacist hate group and what it still represents today.
“It doesn’t mean we need to continue naming our community after him,” she said. “Raise up the voices of people who do want a change and explain why they want a change.”
Results of the MCA referendum should be available in early August.