Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was delivering his 2018 State of the City address Monday at the Carla Madison Recreation Center. Here is the full text of his speech as prepared for delivery, provided by his staff.
Thank you, Council President Brooks.
Albus, you and your family have gone through a lot…the way you battled and beat cancer – twice – is an inspiration.
Good morning to all of you. Thank you for being here: members of City Council, Clerk & Recorder Johnson, Auditor O’Brien, Presiding Judge Spahn and District Attorney McCann.
Our great Governor, John Hickenlooper is also here. As he enters the home stretch, let’s thank him for his dedicated service to Denver and Colorado. Godspeed on whatever comes next, Governor.
We have many elected leaders from around the region here – welcome to you, as well and thank you for joining us. Sadly, one is missing –my friend and a great public servant, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. He is deeply missed, but his legacy of service will endure.
My family is also with us today. There is only one Hancock who has sought public office and the scrutiny that comes with it. My family has borne the brunt of that decision, especially over the past six months. Mary Louise, Jordan, Janae and mama – I love you all very much, you’re my rock.
Maybe because I’m getting older, I’ll be 49 at the end of this month, I find myself being more emotional these days. I find myself reflecting on the enormous privilege you have given me to be your Mayor these past seven years, during this amazing time in our history. If you had told that little boy in Five Points that he would be mayor of Denver one day, and during unprecedented expansion of opportunities and challenges, I’d have thought you lost your marbles. But we’re here.
My family and I are grateful for the support, love and kindness shown to us by our Denver family. That Denver family includes our 12,000 city employees. Thanks to them and our Peak Performance program, your city government is now globally recognized for innovation and efficiency – and they’ve saved taxpayers nearly $30 million since 2011.
And of course, my Cabinet and appointees; I am honored to work with you every day, and to witness your awesome dedication to our great city.
Please join me in honoring all our city employees.
Speaking of employees who give their all – thank you to the staff here at the Carla Madison Rec Center for hosting us. Carla would have been so proud of this place. She would have just loved it. This is Denver’s newest rec center, and it was designed by neighbors, for neighbors. They wanted it here, connected to the historic civic infrastructure of Denver, the Esplanade leading to City Park – a legacy of Denver’s City Beautiful movement led by Mayor Robert Speer.
You know, 100 years ago, in a moment not unlike today, Denver had to decide how it would manage record growth. Would we become a city for people, or factories? Mayor Speer and the people of Denver chose a bold path to build City Park, Civic Center and new auditoriums, to improve streets and lighting, create better storm water systems, and so much more. Of course, there were skeptics. But the people of Denver chose to grow their way.
We did it again a generation ago, when the decision was made to build Denver International Airport. The Rocky Mountain News predicted it would be Federico Pena’s “Waterloo.” The wisdom of building our airport may seem obvious today — but it was a close call. Mayor Pena and the people embraced the moment, and now our airport is Colorado’s No. 1 economic engine.
Whether it’s spurring a movement or moving an airport, every one of these decisions has been about improving, strengthening and adding to what we love – without losing our sense of community. Mayor Speer – a three term Mayor, by the way – took the City Beautiful Movement and transformed Denver for generations. Denver, we are clearly at another transformational moment in our history.
Denver is on the rise.
Oftentimes, a city’s progress is measured by the tangible, by what was built — Roads. Parks. Monuments. But I believe our progress must be measured by the intangibles. What changes lives; builds up people — social justice, access to opportunity and promoting equity in our communities, particularly in times of prosperity. That is the full measure of a city on the rise. That has been my administration’s mission over the last seven years.
When I first took office, we were in the grips of the Great Recession and faced double-digit unemployment. But together, we, the people of Denver got this city moving again: 90,000 new jobs. 6,600 new businesses. 2.4 percent unemployment. And one of the strongest local economies in the nation.
5,000 affordable homes for families citywide. $1 billion dollars of annual economic benefit from 41 new U.S. and international flights. More small businesses are succeeding and growing. More Denver kids have quality after school programs and early childhood education. And all of them have free access to our rec centers — and so do our seniors.
More police officers and firefighters keeping our neighborhoods safe. More protected parkland – nearly a thousand acres – playgrounds and outdoor recreation in more neighborhoods. Longer library hours and more streets repaved. And we eliminated our city’s structural budget deficit, while growing our savings.
We can be proud of these accomplishments; we’ve made tough decisions and we’ve made them together. But the work isn’t done. Cities change. Denver is transforming. And this growth is putting serious pressure on our people — traffic, housing, cost increases. I feel it too!
Our clarion call is to seize the moment and set Denver’s people and neighborhoods on an equitable path of prosperity for the next 100 years. We need to make sure people can afford to live here. We need to protect what we love about our neighborhoods. This is how Denver will continue to rise – together.
The State of our City is the State of Each of us – everyone living and working in every part of our city from Sunnyside to Hampden, the Airport to Bear Valley.
Walking down the 16th Street Mall one day, I was stopped by a young man. We got to talking about all that was happening in Denver, and the success that Denver’s experienced,
and he looked at me and said, “What about the people who are working hard but falling behind. What about us?” I saw myself in that young man. I saw my brothers and sisters and the neighborhoods where we grew up.
Reflecting on that moment, I recalled the words of the great civil rights leader, Benjamin Mays: “It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream … It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for.”
I know the pain of feeling left behind and feeling hopeless. I don’t want that for any of our people, but I know some of you feel it — and you deserve a city that is working on your behalf every day. Each person in Denver is important. How we succeed as a city depends on whether everyone’s streets are safe and maintained, and that everyone has access to good jobs, decent and affordable housing, modern transportation, and good parks and good schools.
Denver succeeds because our people drive that success. It’s the success and vision of our people that spurred Denver to rise in the ranks of global cities all while embracing diversity, nourishing freedom of expression and welcoming immigrants. Global cities are certainly about expanding economic opportunity, but in these times, they offer something else.
They are – WE ARE – beacons of progressive values. They are – WE ARE – places where more than one language is welcomed, not feared. Places where children are schooled; not separated from their parents or put in cages. They are – WE ARE – places were values of inclusion and equity are celebrated. Global cities open doors. They don’t – we don’t – build walls. And we’ve made Denver a great and welcoming place to live.
Now, through new challenges but also new opportunities, we need to make sure our people’s place in our city is secure. City Beautiful was about architecture and public spaces. The equity movement we are creating is about neighborhoods and people: Neighborhoods that are accessible, inclusive and affordable. An economy that extends opportunity to everyone. A city that preserves its history, character and sense of community, even in the midst of transformative change
This movement’s already rolling, with the major infrastructure repairs and improvements the people of Denver supported to benefit our neighborhoods and neighbors. Rosario and her neighbors wanted a rec center in their neighborhood. We listened, and the Westwood Rec Center will be fully paid for through the Elevate Denver bonds. Irene wanted more and better sidewalks along East Colfax. Viviana asked that we reconnect Sun Valley by fixing 13th Avenue. Cecelia and her neighbors wanted a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks in Elyria-Swansea to help get their kids to school safely and on time. Done, done and done.
Every single person in this city will benefit from these improvements. Every person. Our libraries are getting an upgrade. Our parks and museums are going to get better. Our streets are going to be safer and we will have more connected bike and pedestrian networks.
Several neighbors are here representing the thousands of residents who helped shape the Elevate Denver bonds. Please stand. Let’s give them a hand!
This equity movement that We, the People are creating together will lift up all of our neighborhoods. The “Denveright” plans coming out next month were also informed by thousands of Denver’s residents, and they were very clear about how they want Denver to grow over the next 20 years: We must retain our history and remain healthy, active, sustainable, accessible and inclusive. Providing that equity for all neighborhoods and all people is how Denver will continue to rise.
Affordable housing remains a primary challenge to achieving that equity. We have made great progress helping first-time homebuyers, connecting families with new affordable options, protecting renters from eviction, and easing the tax burden on seniors and those with disabilities. One quarter of all affordable homes in the city today, were created with city support over the past seven years. But we must do more.
Next month, the city and the Denver Housing Authority will ask City Council to double our Affordable Housing Fund to $300 million using marijuana taxes. With a surge of up-front funding through bonding, we’ll be able to produce and preserve 6,000 affordable homes for families over the next five years. In 2018, we will invest more money in one year than ever before to deliver housing Denver families can afford – $40 million.
And working with City Council and the Housing Advisory Committee, we’re looking to add new tools to our housing toolbox – land trusts, land banking, accessory dwelling units, a resident preference policy, extending minimum affordability periods and Councilwoman Kniech’s income non-discrimination proposal. We are also pushing to get more affordable housing from developers.
Denver’s increased focus on housing has also extended to those experiencing homelessness. We’ve housed more than 6,300 families and individuals, nearly tripled our annual investment in services and support, and helped open three new shelters. We’re also expanding two of our most successful efforts: our innovative supportive housing program for the chronically homeless, and Denver Day Works, which provides jobs for the homeless, and is driving groups like the Colfax BID to create similar efforts.
When our homeless outreach team met Olivia, she had been homeless for several years. Today, she has a new home at the Sanderson Apartments, which is part of our supportive housing program. She has a new job, is starting to save money and wants to use her experience to help other women who have faced similar challenges. Olivia is here today – let’s show her some love!
Olivia – I hear that despite your 5-foot frame, you’re quite the baller on the basketball court!
Equity and access to opportunity for our people must also extend to our neighborhoods. Norman Harris III grew up in Five Points – a fifth-generation Denverite. Norm has worked hard to preserve one of Denver’s greatest traditions, the Juneteenth celebration. When he was out recently letting neighbors know Welton would be closed for the celebration, he heard something that stopped him in his tracks. A neighbor wanted to know why. They had no idea what Juneteenth was, or what it meant to Five Points – the Harlem of the West that once welcomed the likes of Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong.
There is a responsibility that comes with change. We should be looking beyond building new things, we should be elevating the people and places that make our neighborhoods so special. These are people and places with history and community. They should be added to, not displaced or replaced.
Since I was a child, the Rossonian Hotel has been boarded up. That’s why I was overjoyed when I saw what Haroun Cowan had engineered for the rebirth of the historic Rossonian. Haroun is here today and I just want to publicly thank him, Matt Burkett, Chauncey Billups, and Paul Books for breathing new life back into this great anchor of Five Points.
Many neighborhoods today are facing what Five Points has faced for decades. We should never stop investing in our neighborhoods or making the improvements that raise residents’ quality of life. But we should also have strategies to keep families who want to stay in their neighborhoods from being displaced.
Long before the flash point we saw in November involving Ink Coffee’s reckless advertising, we had directed our economic strategy to address the looming challenges of gentrification.
Today, we will be taking an even stronger role in connecting people to opportunity, so no one is left behind. We are calling it the Equity Platform.
We will be establishing a new Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team, called NEST. The team will deploy resources specifically tailored to neighborhoods that are under threat of gentrification as new public and private investment comes in. They will jump in with residents and local businesses to understand their needs and blunt any threatened loss of culture, character and community that investment can cause.
We already know how this equity-focused approach can change the game. In Westwood, we’re seeing significant improvements in the well-being of kids and families thanks to clear investments in high-quality preschool, childcare, healthcare and economic opportunity.
To support the work of the Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team, we’re going to replicate the resource center model already at work at the Valdez-Perry Library in Elyria-Swansea. With these new centers, residents will have easy, direct access to financial coaches, social services and housing resources right in their neighborhoods.
The National Western Center, Colorado Convention Center and Elevate Denver bond projects will create thousands of jobs over the next decade. And good jobs that pay a good wage are vital to the equity movement. So, we also will be ensuring that residents living near these major public construction projects are targeted to fill those new jobs. Today, 357 people have already received the WorkNow industry training provided by Colorado Resource Partners. Half of them have already secured employment. And I look forward to continuing to work with Council members Kniech and Ortega on this effort.
We will also strengthen efforts to better prepare our minority and women-owned businesses to take part in the billions of dollars of public investment coming to our city. And we’re also making clear that we expect the private sector – contractors and developers – to do their part as well.
Finally, we will be starting a new Race and Social Justice Initiative that will prepare city agencies and employees to identify, evaluate and address the economic and racial impact of new city programs. Let’s not be afraid to acknowledge that implicit bias exists and is a part of all of us. But let’s also have the courage to face it and do something about it.
Equity must be a value that applies to everything we do as a city, including mobility. Without safe, reliable and affordable mobility options, we’re all stuck in neutral. An 8 a.m. commute where everyone is driving in a car by themselves cannot be Denver’s future – even if those cars are self-driving. It’s a contradiction in a city on the rise. I hear you, and I agree – our city’s future must offer everyone more ways to get around by biking, walking and taking transit.
It’s time our streets learn to share.
For Randy Kilbourne, a 19-year Cap Hill resident, mobility is essential. From his unique perspective, Randy is helping to improve mobility equity and options for everyone. With nearly half of the funding from the Elevate Denver bonds going to mobility, we are primed and ready to get moving.
We’re going to be filling more of our sidewalk gaps and making sure repairs get made. Today, I am excited to announce that we will be accelerating the buildout of our bike network – adding 125 more miles of bike lanes over the next five years. That’s right – 125 more miles! It’s also time for the next phase of shared mobility. This includes dockless bikes and electric scooters, and equitably expanding service into disconnected, lower-income neighborhoods.
And if voters this fall approve a statewide transportation measure – and we hope they will – that would give us the additional funding to get more aggressive in making major congestion and Vision Zero-focused safety improvements to major corridors like Colfax and Federal.
While RTD does a good job moving people regionally, there are service gaps within our city that we need to fill on our own. In the next few months, I hope to join with several partners to test a new shuttle service that will better connect downtown with Capitol Hill and Cherry Creek. And to our friends at RTD, we urge you to adopt the proposal before you, which would dramatically reduce fares for students and low-income residents and make transit free for all youth under the age of 12.
We know we need to pick up the pace. So, we’re kicking off a new initiative where city crews will be walking neighborhoods with residents and working together to immediately fix what needs fixing. And we’re ready to get this going in Sun Valley and West Colfax. It could be replacing a stop sign at an intersection, improving a neighborhood bikeway, or addressing potholes and curbs. Small fixes like these can make a big difference to a neighborhood. Our commitment to you, Denver, is that we will show up ready to walk the walk, talk the talk, and then get to work.
Same goes for our commitment to an affordable, reliable and sustainable energy future. Reducing carbon emissions is a must. Climate change threatens our people directly, putting our health, environment and economy – our very way of life – at risk.
In 2015, we pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Denver 80 percent by 2050. Tomorrow, we will become one of just a few American cities with an action plan to get us there. We’re going to lead by example by moving our city facilities to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025, with a community-WIDE target of 2030.
I know those are bold, aspirational goals, and I know cost and technology will determine how we get there. But we must act, and I’m grateful for our partnership with Xcel Energy, the nation’s leading utility when it comes to reducing emissions and building a path toward a clean energy future.
Just as clean energy and carbon reduction are vital to a sustainable future, so too are parks, trees and open spaces. Mayor Speer’s City Beautiful envisioned Denver as a city within a park. With a drive for greater equity for our people and neighborhoods, that’s a legacy we can add to, and together, we will.
Our goal is for every resident to live within a 10-minute walk of a park – every resident. Our families deserve nothing less than easily accessible, safe and fun parks where children of all ages can play and gather. Eight in 10 Denver residents today meet that goal. Eighty percent. With $136 million from the Elevate Denver bonds, we will accelerate our work to improve our parks and bring more recreation opportunities to more people and more neighborhoods.
Right now, there is a group of kids in the Cole neighborhood leading the community’s reimagination of St. Charles Park. We’re proud to be their partners. I met these kids at their first community meeting. Their vision for what their neighborhood park could be was a real inspiration. I love that these young leaders are doing. Their enthusiasm and optimism match this moment in Denver’s history. This is how we build stronger neighborhoods, together.
We also create stronger neighborhoods when our neighbors trust the people serving them. Seven years ago, after a tumultuous decade rocked by high profile excessive force incidents and community outrage, we knew the old way of policing wasn’t acceptable. Today, our police department and Denver residents are working together like never before to improve community safety, accountability and dialogue between officers and neighbors.
And we have Chief Robert White to thank for that. I know it hasn’t always been easy, Chief, but you transformed the police department. Thanks to your leadership, we’ll have a new use-of-force policy that emphasizes de-escalation. Officers now wear body cameras. And our department has prioritized listening and engaging with the community. You have helped the department regain the community’s trust and confidence. Everyone, please join me in honoring Chief White and his wife Valerie for their devotion to Denver.
And please also join me in congratulating Denver’s 70th police chief, Paul “Smiley” Pazen. I know he will do a tremendous job carrying on Chief White’s legacy, raising that bar and keeping Denver one of the safest big cities in America.
Certainly, it takes more than a committed Chief to get this done. It also takes thousands of committed men and women. Please join me in thanking all our first responders – our police officers, sheriff deputies, fire fighters and paramedics!
Keeping us safe also means keeping our safety net strong. Unfortunately, city jails have become some of the largest providers of mental health care and addiction treatment, and officers and deputies are often forced to act as social workers. It shouldn’t be like that, but that’s the reality all over the country.
So, we took the initiative to team up our patrol officers with mental health professionals, and to date, those co-responders have connected nearly a thousand people in crisis with treatment, not a ticket or time in jail. Our Homeless Outreach Teams are working every day to connect those experiencing homelessness to services. When the opioid crisis came to our libraries, the library set up peer navigators to help connect people to treatment. And the jails are now staffed 24/7 with mental health professionals. Please join me in recognizing these outstanding individuals!
In the face of this continuing behavioral health crisis, I’ve directed city agencies to devise a new and comprehensive approach to improving our drug treatment and prevention programs. We need to, because we saw a 15 percent increase in overdose deaths last year.
Next week, we will release a substance misuse strategic action plan, and this summer, we will begin piloting a 24/7 treatment-on-demand program with Denver Health. To help people get access to treatment, housing and support, we’re figuring out how to broaden the reach of the peer navigators into homeless shelters, the courts and other places.
Finally, we must be clear that this opioid crisis could have been avoided, yet for greed and indifference. I have directed the City Attorney’s Office to use every legal tool available in holding opioid manufacturers liable for the social and economic devastation their actions have caused our city and our people.
This city’s greatest strength is its people. All its people. And their success is what propels not only this equity movement, but our entire city, forward.
We, the People. That is foundational to who we are as a city, and as a democratic, compassionate nation. The right of opportunity, of equity, belongs to us all.
We, the People stand together and still hold true that which is self-evident, that all of us are created equal. Because we know that we are the sum of our parts and that everyone matters.
We, the People remember our past, celebrate it, cherish it and preserve it. Because we know that our history defines who we are and strengthens our resolve to achieve more.
And we, the People will continue to strive for the idea that progress and justice are the righteous path to a greater more inclusive society. Because we know no matter how hard some try to divide us – even literally trying to divide families – we will remain united.
That’s what great cities do, and it’s certainly what a great nation should do. If anyone running for office this November thinks we should be following the White House’s example here in Colorado – quite frankly, they don’t deserve to lead our great state.
We will be a city that harnesses inclusion and equity and acceptance for all people – no matter if you’re African American, Latino, Asian American, Native American or white, LGBTQ+ or straight, man or woman … and, yes … we will continue to be a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees.
We will keep working every day to make the state of our city stronger, the state of our people even better – all people. We, the People, all of Denver’s people and neighborhoods, will rise, together.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the City and County of Denver.