Sourced from the Denverite
Brandon Rietheimer is not a politician. He manages a restaurant for a living.
But he is a lawmaker.
The 31-year-old forever changed how developers will construct buildings in Denver when city voters passed the Denver Green Roof Ordinance last year, a policy that requires new and existing buildings 25,000 square feet or larger to have rooftop green space.
Rietheimer, spurred by the election of Donald Trump, led the underdog ballot initiative — not because he wants pigeons to have a nice birds-eye view, but because rooftop green space curbs global warming’s effects on urban areas. The policy would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the temperature in Denver, which suffers from one of the worst heat island effects in the country, according to the Denver Department of Environmental Health.
“We set out to see what the city was doing,” Rietheimer said, “and it turns out the city wasn’t really doing anything. They had all these plans in place but really no way to reach them.”
City Auditor Timothy O’Brien released a report in 2016 saying as much. Mayor Michael Hancock’s Office of Sustainability, he found, was not functioning to meet the city’s 2020 sustainability goals.
“Nobody wanted to talk to us, so if we were gonna go for it, we were gonna go the whole way,” Rietheimer said.
They did, and they won, despite opposition from a well-heeled real estate industry and Mayor Hancock himself.
It was a romantic’s tale of democracy in action: Rietheimer used the power of the people to change his world, because the people in power would not.