It was unseasonably warm at the City Park Golf Course on Sunday December 3, 2017. The sun began to slip down the Denver skyline as a crowd gathered in front of the gates surrounding the golf course steeped in Civil Rights history. As I listened to the activists speak about the alterations to I-70 and the removal of trees that have grown on the City Park Golf Course a common theme began to emerge that seems to transcend political ideology. People do not trust the words of many of their elected leaders.
The I-70 developments have opened wounds from the 1950’s when the interstate system sliced through working-class neighborhoods, and more specifically urban neighborhoods of color. The memory of this war on these neighborhoods can still be heard on the streets of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea. In the 1950’s, America was booming after World War II and we were building a middle-class that would become the marvel of the world. This new advancing economy necessitated ways to connect the country economically more than railroads had nearly a century before. America was building the “shiny city upon a hill”, but there were other cities in our country that found themselves fragmented in the shadows of the interstate system. Activists and residents in Denver wanted answers about the cost associated with a reroute compared to the expansion of I-70; answers that never came.
Signs at the rally hailed leaders like Debbie Ortega, Dennis Gallagher, and Rafael Espinoza as heroes for the city of Denver, but others were criticized. People feel that the cost of a possible reroute has been kept from their communities and distrust has only grown with the lack of transparency. I believe most people in our community understand that we need infrastructure updates, but they want transparency. In no way am I claiming that I know the absolute truth about I-70 and the possible reroute, but that’s the point. The lack of transparency on the I-70 project has led communities to erupt with an anger that has spanned generations. As a community we deserve honesty from leaders and those entities that plan to build the structures that will define our community’s future.
The problem of transparency spans through our political system and reaches our local governments and deep within the backrooms of Washington DC. How can we have a “government by the people, of the people, and for the people” when our citizens only have a partial understanding of significant decisions? Personally, my trust in our system has been dissuaded over the past decade by dangerous recurrences on Wall Street, the unwavering influence of Big Pharmacology companies, our inability to make significant progress on the burning of fossil fuels, and the collective conscience of our political parties when we consider the way campaigns are funded. Citizens need to demand more transparency.