There were 24 people at the meeting. Several of them were first time attendees. The meeting began with a report on recent events. There was a very well written article on the Dennis Gallagher event in the North Denver Tribune. There were two excellent Letters to the Editor in the Denver Post, one written by Liz. The Post also had a very balanced story on the I-70 issue which quoted Steve extensively. Everyone felt the Town Hall meeting went exceptionally well. Mike K. did a great job as MC, the presenters were very informative and there was a good crowd. Thad, Joe E. and Bob Y. had an excellent meeting with Tricia in Congressperson Diana DeGette’s Office. Joe was eloquent in articulating the position of people in the community and Bob presented many of the deficiencies in the Draft Supplemental EIS. Tricia stated that at the present time Congressperson DeGette is neutral on the issue but is considering all of the information we are sending her.
Becky E., Bob Y. and Thad also had a 2 hour meeting with Jerry Tinianow, the City of Denver’s Chief Sustainability Officer. Most of the meeting dealt with deficiencies in the DSEIS and the overall project. Becky asked that we be allowed to give a presentation to the full Sustainability Committee. Jerry stated that it would have to be put on the agenda by the Committee’s Officers. Becky will contact them to make the request for it to be placed on the agenda for the November meeting. Bob asked Jerry to inform the Mayor that if there are not substantial improvements in the DSEIS, especially in relation to analysis of the impacts of 2.5 PM, the city can expect that this project will be lodged in the courts in litigation for many years in the future. There is a coalition of environmental organizations within the state that is coalescing to demand changes and improvements in the project.
We have been requested by Channel 56 to participate in a debate on the I-70 reroute issue. Probably either Steve or Thad will represent our position. A group from the American Planning Association toured the Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods and discussed the project with a variety of groups and individuals including CDOT. John P. stated that they are expected to issue a report before the end of the comment period. Rocky Piro hosted an event at the Iliff school of Theology which focused on the moral issues associated with expanding the highway. Two letters were generated by this gathering, one of which is being circulated among the faculty and another through the Council of Churches. Among other things both raise concerns regarding the health of children. Frank is still trying to get the Archdiocese to meet with us. Tom is reaching out to Regis University to see if they will meet with us and possibly take a position. Liz is reaching out to the Council of Rabbis to see if they will meet with us and take a position.
On Tuesday night the Globeville Neighborhood Plan was presented to the community. The meeting was very poorly attended. On Wednesday morning the Mayor held an event in Argo Park where he formally released the final version of the Health Impact Analysis done by the Denver Department of Environmental Health. This event was even more poorly attended. Thad counted the crowd at 32, with over half of them being city employees or the Mayor’s guards. The Mayor made no mention of the dire health assessments contained in the Analysis including the fact that people in the neighborhoods along the highway have a three and one-half year shorter life expectancy than other people in the city -including people with similar demographic characteristics in neighborhoods not close to highways- and a 40 percent greater chance of emergency hospitalization as a result of asthma. It also was not stated that the Analysis explicitly delineates air pollution from the highway as the major contributor to health problems. Instead, the Mayor and the other speakers focused on the many wonderful things that are happening in the communities.
Armando and John P. reported that their event with Bob Beauprez went very well. An Aide to Beauprez reported that if he is elected governor the entire I-70 project will be reassessed. This confirms a conversation Thad had with a high ranking CDOT official who stated that if a new governor is elected he will establish a team that will reassess all the projects in which the state currently is engaged. Thad also stated that from conversations he has had with city officials there are many more questions about the project being raised by city officials than are being publicly reported.
CDOT Project Director Kirk Webb sent a letter to Steve and Thad rejecting our request that the entire DSEIS be translated into Spanish and placed in that format in libraries in predominantly Spanish speaking communities. AE stated that many people in those communities are bilingual. Thad stated that is true, but many people are not. Steve has been walking the Elyria and Swansea communities counting the residences that are going to be taken as a result of this project. According to his count CDOT’s assertion that only 53 homes will be taken is a gross underestimate. Also, a large percentage of the people living in the Colonial Motel have been there for an extended period of time and meet the government’s definition of “resident”. He will fill a comment to the effect that the DSEIS is deficient because of this underreporting. This is the type of comment that we need to be making.
Most of the meeting focused on Public Comment Period that ends October 31 and the need to generate comments. AE stated that the emotional comments made at the Public Hearings were all well and good, but people need to be more reasoned in their comments. She stated that CDOT has been very forthcoming about what is in the Public Comments and their sense is that many of them are favorable toward the Project. Thad stated that this seemed in variance to the fact that almost all of the comments expressed verbally at the Hearings were in opposition. Also, Thad spoke to the Court Reporters at the first two meetings and only two people had asked them record their views, one of which was neutral and the other of which was in opposition to the project.
It was the sense of the group that at this point we should be devoting all of our efforts toward getting people to make comments. Steve expressed some concern that at the Bruce Randolph Public Hearing Judy Montero’s Aide was asking people to sign a letter about mitigation and that these people might interpret doing so as having made a comment. Thad suggested an e-mail blast to all of the 1100 people on our e-mail list reminding them that there are only three weeks left in which to make a comment and that comments previously sent through Unite North Metro Denver have to be resubmitted. It was suggested that we send these e-mails sequentially as a countdown at two weeks, one week, and then every day during the final week.
Richard T. suggested that if people are on Facebook they can start a Facebook chain asking their friends to submit comments. If people do so they should include the link email@example.com where people can make their comment. Steve is reaching out to several people to encourage the Highland Mommies group to make comments. Tom has started a conversation on NextDoor urging people to make comments. Tom and Steve also are going to be reaching out to businesses that will be negatively affected by the expansion urging them to make a comment. Armando agreed to contact the churches in Elyria and Swansea asking the pastors to place an Announcement in the Church Bulletin and make a statement from the pulpit asking people to make comments no matter what their opinion is. Jude stated that we should do the same thing in churches across the city. Hopefully we will be able to do so as soon as we get the letter from the Council of Churches. John P. agreed to get it to us as soon as possible. Tom is reaching out to teachers asking them to make this a civics project for their students, informing them of the project, asking them to educate themselves about it, and then make a comment. Cameron and Alma agreed to distribute Comment Cards as they canvas the communities. Maggie stated that she will present the information on the need to comment to the League of Women Voters. It was agreed that we need to consider this as a GET OUT THE VOTE effort and use similar tactics.
Next we discussed the comments from experts that are being compiled. Bob Y. and the Environmental Defense Fund are drafting a comment letter on air quality. An Environmental Attorney has agreed to compile comments from other experts, add legal citations and submit them as a single document. People need to have these comments in by the 20th so that she has time to compile them. We have commitments to write comments from the Retired Director of Urban Drainage, a retired EPA hydro-geologist, a Water Engineer, a Traffic Specialist, and two Historic Preservation experts. Thad is developing a comment on the reroute alternative and Glenn is writing one on children’s education. Richard T. is reaching out to a number of his friends in the architectural community and traffic engineering asking them to write comments. Keith is writing a comment on mitigation. Jude is looking for someone who will write on the archeology section. On Friday Liz and Thad are meeting with another retired EPA official. Liz reported that there is a NEPA regulation requiring that the impact on connecting highways be discussed in the DSEIS. She believes that this EIS is deficient in that regard and will write a comment to that effect.
Jude reported that LiveWell is not going to be able to take advantage of the grant opportunities related to Historic District Status based on cultural characteristics. She is going to reach out to Tom Noel and Dennis Gallagher to see if they are interested in doing so. Keith reported that the Denver Business Journal had a very poor article in its latest edition. He will write a letter to them.
We discussed the fact that as soon as the Public Comment Period ends we must use new tactics. It was suggested that the Statewide Outreach Committee try to set up a presentation to Club 20. We will need to start a letter writing campaign to the legislature focusing on their responsibility for oversight of the SB228 funds that are projected to be used for the project. Jude will ask Shirley if she will do an outreach to the Libertarian Party seeking their opposition to the project on fiscal grounds. Frank stated that a former State Attorney General is seeking to enlist attorneys who will work on litigation related to this matter pro bono. He believes that he has some people who will do so and will vet their names through Bob Y. Finally, it was agreed that as soon as the November elections are over we need to begin attending all City Council Candidate Forums and getting every candidate to pledge their position on this issue.
Our next meeting will be at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 22, at the Valdez-Perry Library, 4690 Vine Street. I hope that all of the people who attended last night can come to the next meeting and will bring friends who are interested in sharing their talents.
As you can tell from this report, this was a great meeting. There was exceptional enthusiasm and a host of ideas. We are pushing CDOT on numerous fronts and are on offense. They can say this is “a done deal” all they want, but all people have to do is listen to the news, read the newspapers or talk to their neighbors to know that it is very much a live issue that has a long, long way to go before resolution. Thank you.