By Joe Contreras, Photos by Teddy Gomez, Latin Life Denver Media (see photo gallery below)
The Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Performing Arts Complex was filled to the rafters with proud Denverites for the inauguration of Mayor Michael Hancock, Auditor Timothy O’Brien , Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson and 13 City Council members.
The Mayor talked about his many accomplishments in his first four years as Mayor and about his vision for the next four years of his term. “I love Denver. More people than ever before can say those words about our great city. I know I speak for most of you when I say we’re proud of Denver,” Mayor Hancock said. “We’re proud of where we started, of what we have become and of what we are creating, together, for the future,” said the Mayor (see more of the Mayors accomplishments and ideas below).
While most were impressed with the Mayors inaugural address some still had concerns about the direction Denver is heading over the next four years. “The Mayor was charming as usual said Victoria Gomez Beancourt, Communtions and Development Director for COLOR, Colorado organizations for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, but I would like to have heard more about several of the concerns that affect all Denverites. For example the Mayor talked about improving mobility for the city’s residents but did not talk about affordable mobility. That is a huge issue right now with many people who cannot afford the increasing costs of transportation in Denver.
Gomez Betancourt was at the inauguration as part of a newly formed coalition of organizations who call themselves “We Are Denver”. As Mayor Hancock and the officials took office, the more than fifteen groups that comprise We Are Denver urged the Mayor and council members to start off on the right foot having a plan to remain in touch with, and stay accountable to, the needs of Denver residents and to stand with our communities.
Among the organizations involved with “We Are Denver” are Colorado, CLLARO (Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization), Colorado Education Association, Colorado Jobs With Justice, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Colorado Progressive Coalition, Communication Workers of America, District 7, Denver Area Labor Federation, Food & Water Watch, Fair Chance, FRESC, Greater Park Hill Community Inc., Greenpeace, Mi Familia Vota, Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, ProgressNow Colorado, Rights For All People, SEIU Local 105, Take Denver Back Now, Unite North Metro Denver, 350 Denver, American Federation of Teachers Colorado, American Friends Service Committee.
Members of the newly-formed We Are Denver coalition stood outside the event, displaying signs and singing social justice songs and distributing hundreds of #WeAreDenver stickers for attendees to wear inside the opera house. In a press release distributed immediately after the Mayors speech the group stated.
“We Are Denver emphasizes that nothing happens in a bubble,” said Jordan Garcia, Organizing Director, American Friends Service Committee. “All of our issues intersect. We urge the Mayor Hancock and the new City Council to think holistically when considering policies and make decisions that result in a more just and sustainable Denver for generations to come.”
Part of that sustainability is ensuring that people who live in Denver can stay in Denver, and that means the Mayor and Council must address affordable housing.
“Denver is in the midst of a housing crisis and we need the city to focus on ensuring that more affordable units are built, that affordable units are preserved and that communities of color continue to be able to call Denver home,” said Felicia F. Griffin, Executive Director of FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities. “A diverse and thriving Denver should be our shared goal and we look forward to working with the Mayor and City Council to achieve just that.”
“People who live in Denver who are seniors or live on a fixed income or are low income are in a bind with staying in their homes. People are having to think about relocating to far-flung areas,” said Elaine Cantrell with Take Denver Back Now. “We want to stay and we are working on solutions together to create more low income housing. We are Denver. We need to stay.”
Denver’s communities of color, including immigrants, experience disproportionately such housing and economic security issues.
“These are important times for immigrants living in the United States and we look toward the Mayor and City Council to take leadership and put Denver at the forefront of racial justice and equality,” said Lizeth Chacón, Executive Director of Rights for All People.
Economic and housing insecurity are tied to health care, leaving women and families especially vulnerable.
“Promoting economic security of women and families is key for creating greater access and affordability of care, which is paramount to creating a better Denver,” said Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Coalition partners will work closely with Council members in the coming days and will ask our local officials to stand with women and families in Colorado to help end health disparities and to be healthier and more productive people overall.”
Denver and its watershed are also increasingly threatened by the extreme oil and gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In the suburban housing developments in the City’s northeast, real estate developers have been selling the land beneath working families’ homes for fracking. And, the South Platte Basin, which supplies about 40% of the city’s drinking water, is in danger of being fracked.
“Our elected leaders are sworn to protect our community – that means our environment, economy and our public health, and particularly that of our most vulnerable populations,” said Sam Schabacker, Western Region Director with Food & Water Watch. “Mayor Hancock and the City Council must keep fracking out of Denver city limits and use the influence of their positions to keep fracking out of the South Platte Basin.”
350 Denver urged Denver officials to protect residents by making the city a leader in solving the climate crisis. “We call on the Denver City Council and Denver Mayor Hancock to protect our future economy and our climate by enhancing Denver’s sustainability programs and energy efficiency and fully divesting Denver from fossil fuels,” said Lauren Swain of 350 Denver.
“We look forward to working with this Council and Mayor Hancock to ensure that Denver is truly a great place to live for everyone, where low-income, communities of color have a voice in the decisions that affect their daily lives,” said Mike Roque, Executive Director, Colorado Progressive Coalition. “The possibilities are endless if we all work together.”
In it’s own press release the City of Denver stated..”Proud of Denver’s progress and optimistic about the city’s future, the Mayor highlighted the hard work of the residents of Denver to create a vibrant city that is experiencing one of the most dynamic moments in its history.”
“I love Denver. More people than ever before can say those words about our great city. I know I speak for most of you when I say we’re proud of Denver,” Mayor Hancock said. “We’re proud of where we started, of what we have become and of what we are creating, together, for the future. We have positioned ourselves at the vanguard of progress and the whole world is noticing.”
Upon taking office in 2011, the Hancock administration immediately began to reverse the economic downturn, fill the city’s $100 million budget gap and restore services that had been slashed during the great recession. Once on solid financial footing and ready to improve quality service delivery, the people of Denver and the Hancock administration, together, got to work:
· Creating an unparalleled job market with 49,000 new jobs and 3,200 new businesses over the past four years, and an unemployment rate of just 4.1 percent. Denver’s new economy has attracted game changing new business and industries, and has become a mecca for innovative small businesses and start-ups as well as a competitor in the global marketplace.
· Providing Denver’s children access to the best preschool program in the nation and a public school system that is on the rise, while giving more than 100,000 students free access to libraries, recreation centers, pools and cultural institutions through the MY Denver Card.
· Delivering unprecedented neighborhood investments in everything from streets, sidewalks and parks to business districts, public art, restaurants and entertainment that have converted ordinary spaces into unique places of pride for the community.
· Forging a better relationship between the Police Department and the public by embedding officers into neighborhoods to become members of the communities they serve and providing 21st Century policing that increases transparency, trust and accountability.
· Inspiring a movement in Denver’s city government called Peak Performance that is making Denver one of the most innovative cities in the nation, with service delivery that keeps getting better and faster and a workforce that continues to innovate.
“We are transforming this city while holding dear the values of who we are. These achievements have not been singular, nor do they belong to one person or one group. They have been hard-fought together, and harder-won together,” the Mayor said.
In his second inaugural address, Mayor Hancock outlined his administration’s agenda to fulfill the promise of what Denver has the potential to become, while maintaining the values of Denver’s people:
Housing – The Mayor announced a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach to creating, protecting and rehabilitating affordable housing units in Denver. Strategies include allocating $8 million in 2016; creating a permanent, dedicated funding stream starting in 2017; modifying the city’s preservation ordinance; providing tax and fee relief to affordable housing developers; and examining possible city actions to encourage development of affordable condominiums and town homes.
Kids – Mayor Hancock announced his support for a proposed ballot measure that will make college more affordable for low-income Denver students. He also said all DPS students will now be enrolled automatically into the MY Denver Card program to receive free access to pools, recreation centers and more.
Mobility – The Mayor announced an intensive year-long effort to increase sustainable mobility choices in Denver to move people throughout the city more efficiently and more safely.
Justice – The reform of the Sheriff Department continues with a roadmap in hand and the search for the next Sheriff underway. To ensure our safety departments are accountable, transparent and a partner with the community, Denver will continue to face challenges together with honesty and integrity.
The Mayor also laid out the city’s plans to set Denver on a path of continued prosperity for generations to come through three major initiatives. By realizing his vision to build out the 22-mile “Corridor of Opportunity” from Downtown to Denver International Airport, the city will create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in economic benefit:
Denver’s Urban Core – As the transformational power of Denver Union Station is becoming a reality, spurring more than $1 billion in private investment into downtown, the city will multiply this energy in its city core by reimagining the 16th Street Mall, the Denver Center for Performing Arts and downtown’s parks and outdoor spaces.
National Western Center – To connect the best of Denver’s past with the immense possibilities of our increasingly global future, the Mayor is championing a plan to create the National Western Center, which will offer year-round entertainment, recreation commerce and research. The site will support a partnership with Colorado State University to create jobs and strengthen our economy, establish new access to the South Platte River and 80 acres of open space, and create greater access to public transportation.
Development at Denver International Airport – After more than two years of work with Adams County and the cities surrounding the airport, the region has come together with a proposal that will bring new types of commercial businesses and thousands of new jobs to the airport and neighboring communities with all jurisdictions sharing the economic benefits.
“We were raised on possibilities and born of sheer will. We don’t give up,” Mayor Hancock said. “We lead the way in an age of innovation because we aren’t afraid to take bold steps. A conversation in the hallway – an unintentional collision – can spark a cascade of ideas. And where will they lead? To more jobs. To more affordable housing. To better mobility. To more opportunity. To the next big thing.”
The Mayor also released a comprehensive report to the community outlining the accomplishments of his administration’s first term and setting priorities for the next four years.
CLICK HERE for the full report.