Saying goodbye to District 5

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It is bittersweet that this is both my first and last column for the Washington Park Profile as District 5 councilwoman. I’ve been asked to write because re-districting in 2015 included the Virginia Vale neighborhood — which the Profile covers — as part of District 5.

Virginia Vale is led by the Registered Neighborhood Organization president Paul Aceto. When first inheriting your neighborhood, I learned that I needed to make a board appointment to the Four-Mile House board of directors. I discovered that no resident of Virginia Vale had ever been asked to serve, even though the property resides smack dab in the neighborhood. I called Paul, and asked if he would serve, and busy as he was, he agreed. His leadership on that board has been a significant asset to both the beloved museum as well as the neighborhood.

I have enjoyed attending the neighborhood annual meetings with the great attendance and engaged citizens. And the summer picnic is always a lot of fun. I didn’t get a chance to do the fall hayride but, hopefully, now will have some time.

Virginia Vale is a jewel of a neighborhood with lots of diverse housing and shopping amenities. With beautiful Garland Park, the smaller Mir Park, and the Cherry Creek Trail, there are lots of fun outdoor stuff to do. And, of course, you have McMeen Elementary School with five stars for excellence.

In the larger scope, I have been proud of my tenure on City Council, having led the creation of our city regulations for the first U.S. city to legalize recreational marijuana. Most cities have modeled their regulations after ours now. Then I tackled the short-term rental market in a two-year process that engaged neighbors who both had these kinds of rentals and those who didn’t. It resulted in one of the best systems of regulations in the U.S. and the highest compliance rate. It, too, has been the model for other cities. I am pleased that we have created dedicated funds for affordable housing through linkage fees that development pays and with marijuana tax revenue. I supported and worked for the 2A Parks initiative that gives a dedicated fund to the acquisition of lands for new parks, and led the council committee for the Green Roof initiative — now the Green Building initiative — that will increase the environmental sustainability of all buildings in Denver.

It has been a privilege to serve as your city councilwoman and to work hard for the welfare of our city. I wish my successor all good luck in her tenure and encourage you to stay engaged as you have been, and as I will.

Mary Beth Susman is the councilmember respresenting District 5, elected in 2011. The district includes Washington Virginia Vale, Hilltop and Lowry Field. She can be reached at marybeth.susman@denvergov.org. Susman was recenly unseated by Amanda Sawyer in the June runoff election. Sawyer will be sworn in with the rest of City Council on July 15.

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