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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in his Denver office on June 5, 2019, the morning after winning reelection in a runoff. (Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told a group of business leaders Tuesday that the city needs to have “a tough conversation” about increasing wages for workers.

“A good day’s work, no matter the job, should be compensated with a livable wage,” Hancock told about 600 people gathered for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City luncheon.

He noted how last year the city created a path toward a $15-per-hour wage for city employees and people who are working for contractors doing business with the city.

He also pointed out that the state legislature earlier this year passed a measure, signed by Gov. Jared Polis, that gives local governments the ability to set a minimum wage for their communities.

“And I know it’s going to be a tough conversation, but I ask that you join me and others in having it because we have residents in desperate need of a raise,” Hancock said.

“And we need to figure out  how to make it work so wage stagnation doesn’t continue to hold our people back from accessing our city’s and region’s success.”

Hancock did not spell out any specific proposal in his speech.

But he did say that within a few weeks, his administration will begin working with stakeholders and the city council to craft a bill for consideration this fall that would “increase the minimum wage for all workers here in Denver.”

The proposal is something that Hancock has been talking about publicly since winning re-election in June to his third and final four-year term.

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In a conversation with Colorado Politics the morning after his re-election, Hancock talked about the legislation that allows local government to set minimum wages, a process that does not kick in until 2021.

And in his final inauguration speech on July 15, Hancock talked about building “an economy that is built on equity, opportunity, and social benefit for every resident, every worker, and every family.”

In Tuesday’s speech in the Seawell Ballroom at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, Hancock recalled a conversation he once had with former Vice President and Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.

Hancock said when he asked what the greatest economic threat facing the United States was, Biden replied wage stagnation, wages not keeping pace with the cost of living.

He said over the last year, his administration has been having conversation with the chamber, the Brookings Institute and urbanist Richard Florida on how to promote inclusive growth in Denver.

Hancock said when he asked what the greatest economic threat facing the United States was, Biden replied wage stagnation, wages not keeping pace with the cost of living.

He said over the last year, his administration has been having conversation with the chamber, the Brookings Institute and urbanist Richard Florida on how to promote inclusive growth in Denver.

Florida is the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class” and a new book called “The Great Reset” which argues that long-term economic recovery depends upon reinventing the way people live and work.

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Hancock was joined at the luncheon by Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul who described efforts by mayors across the region to address the need for transportation and affordable house.

Paul, an opponent of a measure adopted by Lakewood voters limiting development growth to 1% each year, warned that more such measures could follow in the metro area.

“If we fail to act in a meaningful way on our transportation and housing crises, we have growing concerns that our residents’ frustrations will result in lower anti-growth measures that only escalate our housing challenges and threaten our vibrant economy,” Paul said.

Denver Metro Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough thanked the mayors and said business leaders are willing to have those “tough conversations.”

“So, as we take on these challenges we will do them the same as we have done in the past where we continue to bring all three sectors, the public, the private and the non-profit together to ask the question of how do we solve this,”

“Mostly because we know we bring very different views of how you solve these challenges” she added. "And the only solutions that will really work are if we agree on how we’re going to go forward and we find the right solutions for Colorado."

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