Voice: Ramona Martinez

Ramona Martinez is a former Denver City Councilwoman.

“We’re spending billions of dollars on roads they’re blowing up in Afghanistan and our roads and our streets are going to heck. We’ve got to start focusing on our local communities.”

I think a lot of it has to do with the effort we put in during the ‘70s and ‘60s with the civil rights movement because we wanted equal opportunity, equal rights. Then we came across affirmative action and we were able to enact affirmative action laws across the country and I believe those opened the doors to a lot of opportunity for a lot of minorities. Then the courts said, “No, you can’t do that. You can’t have those types of affirmative action laws.”

As a city that’s what we worked on, Hiawatha Davis and I, for years got things passed, got things going. It opens up the door of opportunity for lots of minorities and when that happens minorities have access to better schools for the kids, access to a lot of different things for their children. Their incomes rise. Well, they get rid of affirmative action and what happens we go back to where we started from. Those kinds of opportunities aren’t there anymore. And I think a lot of that has to do with the gap that is happening in both communities.

Civil rights gains have been reversed, absolutely. I see it a lot. I don’t live in my old neighborhood anymore, but I go back there and I think of all of the money and the time and energy we spent trying to improve it. The housing market went to heck in that neighborhood. I think it was one of the highest foreclosure rates. When you go back and look at it, there were no programs in place to re–energize those communities. We used to have programs coming from the federal government where we hired people in the community to paint homes, to go fix homes, to bring in ownership programs for low income people. All of that’s gone away. So you’re not going to build the middle class. You’re going to have lower income, and minorities are always going to be on the bottom.

And unfortunately this gap has even widened. In the last 10 years, all you have to do is look at the policies that came out of Washington, look at the programs that were cut. I used to work with the Piton Foundation. They did an incredible job showing how poverty was building into communities, and how we had to make sure that didn’t happen, and how we had to strengthen those communities.

The implications are going to be huge because you may have a majority minority population coming in the city and county of Denver and its coming much faster than most people predicted. We’re going to have a very, very tough economy here in Denver. The city and county of Denver is going to have a rough go.

Aurora is already majority minority and Denver is right behind it.

We’re spending billions of dollars on roads they’re blowing up in Afghanistan and our roads and our streets are going to heck. We’ve got to start focusing on our local communities.

There are things you can do. It’s just common sense. But the money and programs aren’t there and the focus is gone. It really stopped I think when we were at the point to get some legislation passed.

Affirmative action, I think, scared the heck out of folks who had the power, money and the resources. And after that it seemed like everything stopped.

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