By Robin Kniech, FRESC Campaign for Responsible Development Coordinator & Program Director
This year FRESC celebrated its fifth anniversary of working to preserve and expand good jobs and strong communities. We marked this milestone with a highly successful dinner on December 6, attended by 200 of our closest friends, members, and supporters. At the dinner we honored those who helped to found FRESC but have moved on to new endeavors, including Leslie Moody who has stepped up to lead the Partnership for Working Families, and Chris Nevitt who was elected to the Denver City Council in June of 2007. We also honored two grassroots committees who embody some of the groundbreaking organizing FRESC is spearheading.
The Prevailing Wage Committee is a first-of-its kind committee of rank-and-file construction workers from four different union crafts: IBEW, Sheet Metal Workers, Laborers and Carpenters. Building on the Campaign for Responsible Development’s community benefit achievements at the Gates site, the committee has been working to expand good jobs on all tax-increment financing projects, by calling for more consistent application of the prevailing wage.
FRESC also honored the Resident Advisory Committee as a model community-government partnership to address the challenges of redevelopment. La Alma/Lincoln Park is a neighborhood that could face transit-oriented redevelopment as part of Denver’s FasTracks rail expansion. Several hundred units of public housing sit next to the light rail station in this neighborhood, and public entities are exploring options for a Hope VI-type redevelopment that would transform public housing into a mixed-income community. FRESC conducted dozens of 1-on-1s with neighborhood residents, many of whom expressed concern about displacement. FRESC worked with the City of Denver and the Denver Housing Authority to create a Resident Advisory Committee that was facilitated by the neutral National Civic League. The Advisory Committee allowed residents to sit alongside planners, housing authority officials, and community based organizations to draft principles and priorities that should govern any redevelopment and would better address social and economic concerns facing the neighborhood. After the principles are released at the close of the year, FRESC will continue to organize residents to advocate for implementation of community benefit principles in all stages of the planning and redevelopment process.
FRESC’s Campaign for Responsible Development continues its campaign to seek community benefits at Denver’s transit hub redevelopment, Union Station. In preparation for negotiations and public votes in 2008, FRESC has intensified the grassroots organizing of rank-and-file union members and low-income housing residents who are working with the coalition’s organizational members to raise awareness of the need for community benefits at the site. Meanwhile, FRESC continued to build the foundation for higher expectations of better jobs and affordable housing. With the February 2007 release of A Downtown Denver for Everybody?, the Campaign for Responsible Development launched a successful campaign that resulted in the insertion of low-income housing goals in a plan guiding development in Downtown Denver.
2007 was a year for FRESC to build its infrastructure and prepare for expansion of our work to a regional scale in 2008. In addition to the deep leadership development and recruitment that have resulted in an expanded base of individual supporters and activists, FRESC hired ordained minister Daniel Klawitter to build an interfaith committee of clergy committed to worker justice. Less visible but vital infrastructure improvements like developing a comprehensive list of individual member/donors and a new database to track our supporters will improve our effectiveness in the future. We are in the final phases of a transition from the “Front Range Economic Strategy Center” to “FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities” – with a new logo representing our model of partnership and interconnected issues. Look for a brand new and improved website developed with the support of the Partnership for Working Families in January of 2008.
In 2008 we intend to capitalize on this larger base and our deepening partnerships to address new challenges, including:
- Leadership in and organizing to support a newly forming Denver task force on economic prosperity and community benefits,
- Fighting anti-worker and anti-equal opportunity ballot initiatives through an electoral civic engagement program,
- Release of a framing report on the low-wage economy that lays the foundation to transform the sector into a middle class opportunity,
- Inclusion of community input, worker protections, and training opportunities in the privatization of several rail corridors,
- Co-launching with the Denver Area Labor Federation a regional caucus of local, elected officials interested in high-road economic development, and
- Expanding construction training preparation and apprenticeship opportunities throughout the region, including opportunities in Colorado’s new energy economy.