The MCA sent out ballots in late June to Stapleton homeowners (10,563 eligible votes) in regards to beginning the process of a name change. When looking at the situation we are in as a community, it’s much easier to view it in hindsight. So, I am going to take the position of hindsight in this one. If we could go back, here are some things we could do better:
- The Airport was named “Stapleton” in 1944 after former mayor Ben Stapleton who spearheaded the project. Mayor Stapleton had been a member of the klan up until 1925 when he was banished by the klan. In a small way, doesn’t it seem like keeping the name “Stapleton” is a stick in the eye to the klan? Regardless, Stapleton was a politician. Politician’s lie to get elected to get power. Moving forward, and in this case looking back, maybe it’s never a great idea to name something after a politician.
- Forest City purchased the land from the city and planned to create a magical utopia of diversity, both ethnically and socioeconomically. They simply kept the name of the airport to mark the neighborhood. The neighborhood grew quickly, but Forest City lagged behind in their promise to the city in regards to the percentage of income qualified housing (this is much more complicated than it seems, however). Had Forest City done a better job in being prepared to create the appropriate number of income qualified housing, maybe the name never becomes an issue.
- Apparently, the neighborhood was never meant to be named Stapleton. But, fortunately for Forest City, the name stuck. It was used in advertising and signage all over the place. The community organizations use “Stapleton” in their names. People were moving to Stapleton from all over the city, state, and country. None (or an extremely small percentage of them) of the people moving to the community had any idea of the history of the naming. The naming (after Benjamin Stapleton, kkk member) was definitely brought up in early discussions. However, there wasn’t enough momentum or noise to concern Forest City enough to slow down with their “Stapleton” marketing efforts. Had there been more “noise” in the early days, maybe people would not have been so eager to purchase homes here, which would have caused Forest City to re-evaluate their marketing efforts.
- Close to four years ago, Black Lives Matter made a big push to let the community know the history of the name and that the name should be changed. Many community members had no idea of the connection between the neighborhood name “Stapleton” and the kkk. Like all neighborhoods, this one has its issues, but the community seems pretty accepting, giving, and liberal as a whole. For whatever reasons, community members were slow to embrace changing the Stapleton name. An organization within Stapleton was then started in an attempt to continue to educate residents on why the name is hurtful to some. However, like all things involving politics and social media, things got ugly quickly. Those who didn’t understand the real positive effect of a name change were called out on social media as “stupid” and/or “racist” by a small number of those involved in the organization. This in effect slowed momentum for the movement, as many residents simply chose to not engage in the discussions. Had those wanting to change the name reached out in a more engaging way, the movement may have much more momentum and support than they do today.
- Where’s the fire? What was the point in sending the ballot out now? There are somewhat conflicting reports in regards to why there was a push to make this vote happen now. Nevertheless, the MCA and RSFA should have waited and given the community a chance to learn more about the issue(s). Heck, I think it would have been prudent to wait another year. This would have given those wanting a change to come up with a solid, alternative choice which I believe would have benefited those wanting to change the name.
- The ballot could have been done better (in hindsight, of course). Language on the ballot states “write name and sign” and there is nothing to sign or write names on. There is confusion as to how to vote in households where spouses don’t agree. At least one of the questions was extremely confusing as to what it was asking, and what the implications were. A “do-over” would have been nice here.
- Lastly, the numbers are all wrong. Never mind the confusion of having to meet the 10% quorum of your neighborhood or the delegate makes their vote, but why should residents have to vote for a “no change?” Furthermore, why should it have to be over half the residents to agree to change the name? So, if two in five of your neighbors aren’t comfortable with the community name, that’s okay with you? It shouldn’t be. Ballots should have been sent out with one question: Change the name (in my opinion, to a SPECIFIC NAME) or not. If you are fine with the name, do nothing. If you are uncomfortable with the name, return your ballot. If 20% of ballots sent out are returned (uncomfortable with name), the name should change. I think that would have been fair.
Whether you have voted already or not, challenge yourself to actually listen to people who have a different viewpoint than you. And if you haven’t voted, think it through, and make your voice heard. The vote is supposed to reflect the voice of the community. And this is your opportunity to share your voice.