Denver Development

Project VOYCE Returns Albus Brooks's Donation, Says Its Support Is Not for Sale

On September 19, Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks deleted a number of tweets made from his Twitter handle @AlbusBrooksD9.

It’s not a coincidence that the deletions occurred around the same time that the following post showed up on Project VOYCE’s Facebook page:

Through Project VOYCE’s Candi CdeBaca, who co-founded the organization that's well-known in the Five Points neighborhood for offering programs that empower youth and teach civic engagement, Westword learned that the "city official" mentioned in the post was Brooks.

CdeBaca says that her organization decided to return Brooks's $1,000 donation following a tweet in which he touted the contribution:

         On her personal Facebook page, CdeBaca wrote:

Westword reached out to Brooks for comment but has not received a response.

But CdeBaca described the events leading up to Brooks’s tweet and her organization’s decision to return the donation. According to CdeBaca, the financial contribution took place back in August 2015, when Project VOYCE was among a few recipients awarded donations from Engage 8 (now called Engage Denver), an organization that Brooks founded. A picture of the check includes his name:

But after the donation, CdeBaca realized that her organization’s and Brooks’s interests did not exactly align over issues like development and affordable housing.

“I was trying to pull [Brooks] in and show him what the community wanted and needed, like how we can do development without displacement,” she recalls. “But at a certain point, I realized that he has other interests…. I could also tell I was starting to get under his skin."

Gradually, the relationship soured to the point that CdeBaca says she no longer feels represented by Brooks.

Then in mid-September, CdeBaca noticed a Twitter exchange between Brooks and a friend of hers, a former Manual High School student, who criticized the councilman. 

In response (in a now deleted tweet), Brooks wrote: 

That's when CdeBaca got involved, ultimately leading to Brooks mentioning the donation. 

In the wake of the exchange, CdeBaca says, “I was pissed off. I don’t think I responded inappropriately. But I told him we’ll refund his money because we’re not for sale and our opinions are not for sale, especially for a thousand dollars."

She notes that the exchange happened on the night of Denver City Council's public hearing on the affordable-housing proposal; CdeBaca and students with Project VOYCE had been very vocal on the issue, attending meetings with signs declaring "My community is not for sale" in English and Spanish.

Then, days later, Brooks deleted his tweets.

“I think what prompted him to [delete them] is that he realized, ‘Oh, shit, I just made it very clear that a donation should mean influence, and I was also picking on an organization that supports youth,’" CdeBaca says.

Project VOYCE is not feeling the burn of losing the donation, though. Following its Facebook post on September 20, the organization raised more than $1,100 in smaller donations to replace the thousand it refunded to Brooks's office.

As an explanation, Project VOYCE left the following letter with the councilman's office:  

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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker