Building Power in Denver: Four FRESC Champions Ascend to City Council

June 17, 2011 -- FRESC

by Kevin Abels, FRESC Executive Director

Together, the Partnership for Working Families is building the next generation of leaders in our cities, leading change from the ground up.

That is exactly what is taking place in Denver.

You can see the power our movement has built in the recent results of the Denver municipal elections.  FRESC and our allies will have four champions on City Council. Last month, Denver voters elected FRESC Program Director and Staff Attorney Robin Kniech as City Councilwoman At- Large, making her the first out LGBT elected official to serve in city government.  On June 7th, in a run-off election District 1 voters elected Susan Shepherd, former Denver Area Labor Federation Political Director, to represent them. They both join former FRESC Executive Director and current City Council President Chris Nevitt and former union organizer Paul Lopez on Council.  With these champions and several other allies on Council, we anticipate a majority on our 13 seat City Council.  In addition, Mayor-elect Michael Hancock attended FRESC’s candidate forum and signed our pledge to prioritize good jobs and strong communities if elected mayor.

The hard work of delivering good jobs and strong communities for Denver’s working families begins now.  You might think that the budget crisis could make it difficult to win improvements.  We think, however, that tighter budgets make it even more urgent for Denver to invest in ways that increase opportunity for the most vulnerable.  Public dollars need to encourage the creation of good jobs, not just any jobs.  These investments in workers will pay off because the best economic stimulus is a good job.  In addition, through a project like weatherizing our public buildings, Denver can achieve a triple bottom line: workers receive training and good wages through green jobs, our carbon footprint shrinks, and the city saves money in reduced energy costs.    

FRESC also wants to maximize the return on investment from the $6 billion our transportation agency is spending on an aggressive expansion of rail and bus service.  We have won community benefits agreements at transit-oriented developments and a region-wide affordable housing policy.  Now with the help of our community and philanthropic partners in the Mile High Transit Opportunity Collaborative, we will work to ensure that the most vulnerable in our region benefit from this massive investment.

Our movement’s growing power is also united behind an initiative for paid sick days for all workers in Denver on the ballot this fall.  In the past, harmful ballot initiatives have forced us to react, and in most cases, defeat attacks on workers and our communities.  Now, we will offer working family voters a chance to vote for something positive to improve our lives and make us all healthier.

FRESC looks forward to working with our new allies on the City Council to improve the lives of Denver’s workers and communities.