Clash over lack of Hispanic names for new Denver justice center |

Clash over lack of Hispanic names for new Denver justice center

Daniel J. Chacon
Rocky Mountain News
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado “-Denver City Council President Jeanne Robb stormed out of today’s safety committee meeting after her Hispanic colleagues opposed her recommendation to name the plaza at the new justice center complex after former District Attorney Dale Tooley.

Council members Rick Garcia, Paul Lopez and Judy Montero said they want the plaza to include the name of a Latino.

“I’m not talking,” a visibly angry and teary-eyed Robb said when approached by a reporter.

Ten of the city’s 13 council members met today to discuss the naming of the buildings at the city’s new jail and courthouse.

After a long and sometimes humorous debate, council members voted to name the courthouse the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse after Benjamin Barr Lindsey and James Flanigan.

Council members then voted to name the jail the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center after Philip Van Cise and L. John Simonet.

The full council will consider the names in coming weeks.

Council members have no say in the naming of the plaza because it’s not a public building. Mayor John Hickenlooper has final say on the matter.

But Robb proposed drafting a proclamation recommending to Hickenlooper that the plaza be named after Tooley, a former district attorney.

Garcia, Lopez and Montero didn’t agree, saying they wanted more time to give the Hispanics an opportunity to include names of Latinos for consideration.

Montero said she and others had received calls from people in the Hispanic community “who want to weigh in on the plaza.”

Latinos in Denver have made positive contributions in the criminal justice system, said Montero, who called the proclamation “premature.”

Robb finally gave in and withdrew her proclamation proposal “in the spirit of Dale Tooley,” saying she didn’t want the jockeying to turn into a “food fight.”

However, Robb said she wasn’t giving up and that she was intent on honoring Tooley, a Denver native who oversaw the prosecution of more than 200,000 cases.

Robb also said that her support for naming the courthouse and jail after Lindsey, Flanigan, Van Cise and Simonet was contingent on the plaza being named after Tooley. To not name part of the new justice center after Tooley would be “wrong,” she said.

The naming of the buildings of the justice center complex has been aggressive from the start.

The city called for nominations last year and then formed a task force to review them.

The task force, which included four Hispanics, received 11 nominations and forwarded its recommendations to Hickenlooper.

The nominations didn’t include the names of any Hispanics.

Montero said the call for nominations could have been more inclusive.

“Truthfully, I think there could have been more prominent outreach to our community for folks to weigh in,” she said.

Montero also said that the process was about the naming of the public buildings, not the plaza.

“You see (council members) up here when we call for mediation on a zoning issue,” she said. “We always try to cast a net for inclusiveness and building consensus. Why is this any different?”

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