Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Report from the Elyria Neighborhood Association

by Thomas R. Anthony, President
October 3rd, 2009

The Elyria Neighborhood Association Board of Directors learned yesterday that the Anna Louise Johnson Recreation Center, a fixture in Elyria since 1939 and just the latest iteration of Elyria's recreational program which began upon founding of the town in 1881, may be closed by the City and County of Denver. This is "ostensibly" in response to the new budget mandate to save money, and not because Councilwoman Montero wants to run a new highway past Elyria park. Perhaps the $271,232 proposed to be saved by shuttering Johnson Rec will be re-allocated for staffing the new $11 million Forest City Recreation Center approved with the $500 million in new bonding projects in November of 2007. Or perhaps Denver needed a supervisor to administer the $60 million General Obligation Bond for restoration in the Boettcher Concert Hall. Recently, a $1.5 billion state subsidy introduced by ex-Senator Jennifer Veiga of Senate District 31 in Elyria was passed by the Legislature as an impetus to building a new $200 million home for the National Western Stock Show, whose $30 million buildings and equestrian facilities were constructed by Denver taxpayers in Elyria in 1993.

Although Denver Public Schools recently announced an incoming student boom which drove up the registered students' roster by 2,600 kids this year, largely in the Northeast Denver area where Elyria is located, for some reason the $271,000 a year it takes to operate and staff the Johnson Recreation Center has become surplus funds. Although Nestle Purina added a $50 million automated warehouse to its operation in South Elyria this year, generating millions of new taxes to Denver County while making every Elyrian's supper smell like dog food, the budget for Elyria's only community activity center simply cannot be sustained in the face of all the needed budget cuts, which may in some way relate to the 70% loss of property value we've endured.

My 5 and 7 year olds play PAL sports for Elyria's Johnson Center Chargers and the Blue Jays. They are the lighter-skinned component of the 92% minority teams, which are made up of children where, according to the Piton Foundation, comparing us with the rest of Denver: we average 200% more families with children, and more than 200% higher rate of those children born to teenagers; where 91% of the kids qualify for DPS free lunch; where we earn 70% of the average household income while supporting double the number of occupants per house, and where 31% of the homes are over-crowded; where we have 260% of the average household poverty rate, yet our heads of household hold 500% more manufacturing jobs and 300% more construction jobs, per capita; and have a 200% higher unemployment rate and 1/8th the average number of college grads. As far as getting in trouble, while we have 300% of the average burglary rate, only 64% of the average Denver neglected child rate. It must be someone else sneaking into our neighborhood to steal things.

And as long as we're looking at statistics, according to an administrative training manual published by the US Dept of Education: "In Rochester, N.Y., gang members reported committing 68 percent of all adolescent violent offenses; in Seattle, Wash., gang members reported committing 85 percent of adolescent robberies, and in Denver, Colo., gang members self-reported committing 79 percent of all serious violent adolescent offenses....According to James C. (Buddy) Howell, Ph.D., a long-time gang researcher and former director of research and program development at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: "Communities overreact and attack the problem in the wrong way, there is an emphasis on trying to sweep them out of the area [through law enforcement]. When their roots are in the area, that's not likely to be effective. Instead, communities must analyze the problem and address the origins with prevention and early intervention. It's a harmful myth to just think you can drive gangs out of an area and that will be the end of it. It's not. They regenerate themselves." I might add, especially when you close down their recreation center after 100 years.


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