Denver Mayor Michael Hancock vowed on Monday to build a more equitable city after he was sworn in to his third and final term in office.

Under a blazing mid-morning sun, Hancock was sworn in along with the 13 City Council members, including five new members.

Hancock began his inaugural speech with a line of poetry from the late Colorado Poet Laureate Thomas Hornsby Ferril, who wrote in his poem "Elegant Dust," "You didn't know you came to make a city, nobody knows when a city is going to happen."

Hancock echoed that line of poetry in his speech, describing the kind of city he hopes to make in his last four years as Denver's 45th mayor.

"We came today to make a city where our success today means fortifying an economy for tomorrow, an economy that is built on equity, opportunity, and social benefit for every resident, every worker, and every family," he said. 

On the day after threatened immigration raids that did not materialize in Denver, Hancock criticized what he described as "the ugly politics of division."

"We will stand together as one Denver to shield our residents from being the targets of any radical and hate-filled agenda," he said.

His speech, which takes the place of this year's State of the City address, did not unveil any specific new programs.

Instead, Hancock promised to deal with issues such as homelessness, affordable housing, criminal justice reform and climate change.

He also vowed to make Denver's growth as a city work for its residents.

"Growth must not only be smart, it must be growth with equity and growth with justice," he said.

"Our history is one of our most valuable assets, and it is irreplaceable," he added. "There is no equity if development does not embrace that asset and provide a community benefit."

Throughout the speech, a protester with Occupy Denver walked up and down Banncock Street, shouting during the ceremony.

Another Occupy Denver organizer, Ana Cornelius, said she and two other women were removed from the seating area after they begin booing Hancock during his speech.

Cornelius said nothing happened to them when they cheered during the swearing in ceremonies of Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca and City Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez.

But when they stood up and booed the mayor, they were removed, she said.

Cornelius said they were booing to protest the city's urban camping ban, which prohibits homeless people from sleeping on public property. Hancock supported the ban during his re-election campaign.

Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said one woman was arrested after she allegedly tried to enter a restricted area on the City Hall Plaza.

Meanwhile, small group of people protesting a recent culling of geese in the city park stood in silent protest in Civic Center Park, across the street from City Hall, holding signs like one that read "Peace for Denver Geese."

      

The challenges ahead

Hancock will preside over a city that has experienced phenomenal growth and a booming economy during his first two terms — one that is also grappling with homelessness, traffic congestion, gentrification and a lack of affordable housing.

Denver is a much different city than it was eight years ago when Hancock first became mayor.

The population has grown by 100,000 in the last eight years, and businesses have invested $5.7 billion in downtown projects in the last five years.

But one does not have to look far to see homeless people living on the street. Rents have skyrocketed. And residents in and out of the city complain about traffic jams and a lack of parking.

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Hancock easily defeated urban planner and political novice Jamie Giellis in the June 4th runoff by 12.7 percentage points.

But as he begins his next four years as mayor, it's clear that many of the issues raised during that intense and heated campaign still reverberate around the city.

For her part, Giellis vowed, in an op-ed published Sunday on the Westword website, she will strive to hold Hancock accountable and continued her critique of his administration. 

"A new era is upon us, and it must be for the people," she wrote. "Mayor Michael B. Hancock, welcome to your third term as our mayor. As a city, we are truly at a crossroads. Please don't sell our soul."
 
 
For his part, Hancock has vowed to make his third term about creating equity for residents who felt left behind during Denver's economic boom. He also has said his administration won't grow stale in its third term. 
 
But he is facing a daunting set of challenges. Among them:
      
     
Growth and development
 
The pace of growth and development in the city was, by far, the No. 1 issue in the spring municipal election. Hancock easily won re-election. But three incumbent City Council members lost their seat to opponents who tapped into concerns about growth.
 
The old council adopted a new set of procedures in its final meeting last week that will require developers of projects of five acres or more to meet with residents before filing an application and to set aside 10% of the project for publicly accessible open space.
 
This move will not affect 28 projects currently in the planning pipeline. What impact it has on future development remains to be seen.
     
     
Open space
 
Hancock will face a major decision on open space now that the shuttered 155-acre Park Hill Golf Course has been sold to a local developer, Westside Investment Partners Inc.
 
Officials at Westside say they will launch a "listening tour" to hear what residents want to see done with the property.
 
But opponents, including former Mayor Wellington Webb, who supported Hancock's re-election, are urging the City Council to preserve the land as open space.
     
      
Denver International Airport's Great Hall project
 
Last week, amid planning for the inaugural, Hancock met with top executives of the Spanish airport developer Ferrovial to discuss disputes over possible delays and cost overruns to the $650 million Great Hall project underway at Denver International Airport.
 
Afterwards, both sides were mum about the meeting, which was first reported by CBS4. But meetings with a mediator to attempt to resolve the disputes are expected to continue through the summer.
 
The stakes are high for both sides. The developer for the public-private venture has told investors that the work may not be completed until May 2024 rather than the original target date of November 2021.
 
That would put completion of the project beyond Hancock's time in office.
 
During the campaign, Hancock cautioned voters that the reports of delays and overruns were all coming from the developer rather than from DIA officials.
 
He also noted that the funds for the project come from revenues generated by airport fees and not from taxpayers. However, critics point out that if significant cost overruns occur, airlines could pass those expenses along to air travelers.
 
Thus, the outcome of the current negotiations could have long term consequences for both the city and the developer.
 
     
Homelessness
 
Just prior to today's inauguration, members of Denver Homeless Out Loud plans to launch what they call "100 days of action for We the Peoples' Rights, Dignity and Housing."
 
Denver Homeless Out Loud is the group that helped pushed this spring for Initiative 300, the failed ballot measure that sought to assert the right of homeless people to live on the streets.
 
The measure was crushed in the May 7 general election, in which 80% of voters rejected it.
 
Opponents of the measure, including Hancock, frequently said "we can do better." Out Loud activists say they intend to hold city officials accountable for that promise.
 
For his part, Hancock has vowed to work with shelter providers to create a daytime shelter system so that homeless people are not turned back out onto the street each morning after an overnight shelter stay.
 
Hancock also plans to work with shelters to ensure that homeless people with children or with pets are able to stay in the overnight shelters.
 
And he has vowed to create a the city's first Department of Housing and Homelessness. The new department is aimed at addressing criticism leveled by the Denver Auditor's Office, which described the city's efforts at combating homelessness as fragmented and understaffed.
     
 
Transportation
 
Hancock will try to convince voters in November to approve a charter change that will create a new Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. 
 
The new department will oversee projects aimed at dealing with traffic congestion, as well as management of the city's pedestrian and bicycles lanes.
 
If approved, the department also will absorb the city's Department of Public Works.
 
        
A new City Council
 
Hancock may face a challenge in dealing with the new City Council, which includes five new members. 
 
Three of those five include council members who defeated incumbents, including two incumbents who were closely allied with the mayor.
 
One of those new council members is Candi CdeBaca, who has hired former Denver mayoral candidate Lisa Calderón to serve as her chief of staff.

Calderón, who finished third in the general election, was sharply critical of the Hancock administration during her campaign.

Besides Hancock and the council members, Monday's ceremony also will include the swearing in new City Clerk and Recorder Paul D. Lopez and City Auditor Timothy M. O'Brien.

Inauguration festivities concluded Monday night with a free concert at the Denver Botanic Gardens at featuring Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, The Hot Lunch Band, Raquel Garcia and Bo Richardson/DJ Blaque Gurl.

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