Jul 15, 2019
DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s Third Inaugural Address as prepared:
July 15, 2019
City and County Building
Members of City Council, Auditor O’Brien, Clerk and Recorder Lopez, Presiding Judge Spahn, honored guests and my fellow Denverites:
You didn’t know you came to make a city, nobody knows when a city’s going to happen. Those are the words of Colorado poet laurate Thomas Hornsby Ferril, brought to life every day in every park, along every street and through every person in our city.
160 years ago, the first westward-bound settlers came to the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. They didn’t know they came to make a city – but a city was born. From those early beginnings, a city grew. A city that aspired to one day serve as Colorado’s capital. A city that built its own railroad so that progress would not pass it by. A city that welcomed new immigrants and new communities and new ideas. A city that has been resilient through every boom and every bust, through every generational shift and through every change in our national consciousness.
Today, we inaugurate a new city government by and for the people of this great city, and we affirm the trust that the people have placed in us to lead selflessly with integrity, civility and honor. There is no more humbling responsibility – a responsibility we accept with gratitude, with the love and support of our families and with the confidence of the people. We are called to make a city for those here today, and for the generations that will follow.
Without question, these are challenging times. Our national discourse, once filled with hope and optimism, has been replaced with cynicism, hate and anger that stoke the ugly politics of division. But here in Denver, we are steadfast in the conviction that our city’s strength comes from a fierce sense of unity, equity and inclusion. Ambition must never and will never be used as a tool to divide us. We may have disagreements, but our goals are aligned. We may have debates, but we all seek to do what is best for the people we serve. We may take different paths, but our destinations are the same.
Consensus is always our aim. Consensus fueled an economic revival over the last eight years like none other in Denver’s history. Consensus brought us together to balance our budget, fix our mental health system and repair our infrastructure. Consensus is what brings us together to stand as one Denver in the face of bigotry and bias.
And when we see children in cages at our southern border; when families are torn apart, and our community is targeted for deportation raids; when our neighbors are forced to take sanctuary in churches – our resolve will only grow stronger. We will stand together as one Denver to shield our residents from being the targets of any radical and hate-filled agenda.
Together, our determination is relentless. There is nothing we can’t do, nor anything that will stand in our way. Our economy is strong. Our neighborhoods are safe. Our people have access to unprecedented opportunity. Here and now, we are poised to do something extraordinary. Through bold, energetic and visionary leadership, we will advance the trust and the will of the people to solidify Denver as the most equitable, modern and progressive 21st Century city in the world.
We came 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. We know that for our city to remain strong, our legacy must be an economy that works for everyone – where everyone has access to a home, a job and a future. To achieve that economy, equity in opportunity must be a guarantee. A good day’s work, no matter the job, should be rewarded with a livable wage. The ability to train for a good-paying career in the industries and fields that will define the future should be open to anyone who seeks it. Affordable childcare, affordable before and after-school programs, and affordable healthcare should not be the privilege of a few, but open to every family. And a child’s zip code should not pre-determine their future – it should only determine that their college acceptance letter makes it to the right address.
Our public investments should be the vehicles to drive public good. Our projects will be rooted in our equity platform, and we will continue to create local jobs. We will support our local businesses, especially women and minority-owned businesses. Our families and our communities will have access to the tools that will help them achieve economic mobility and build generational wealth. And our neighborhoods will be the beneficiaries of these investments.
An affordable home is the social foundation that any family’s economic security is built on. Protecting and improving the affordability of our homes is the guiding principal that informs and shapes all our work and our policies. The American Dream should be a dream for all, and when the market refuses to respond, we must step in to ensure that it becomes an attainable reality for all.
And we will not rest until those who are experiencing homelessness can themselves rest with a roof over their heads. We will go beyond an emergency response, and pursue a rapid housing response, ensuring our residents are healthy, housed and connected. Our path forward will continue to be one of compassion and dignity for our most vulnerable residents; a supportive care system that addresses individual needs and experiences, and where all roads lead to housing first, achieved through every resource brought to bear.
We came to make a city that champions progress and progressive ideals, because those are the ideals that champion people, equity and social justice. We are resolved to correct, and correct now, the decades of intentional bias in our criminal justice system that trapped generations of families in a relentless cycle of oppression and poverty. We believe action must be taken at every level to address the decades of devastation the war on drugs and bias-driven incarceration have inflicted on our communities of color, and the insurmountable barriers they have left in their wake. It is not only an economic and social imperative, it is simply the right thing to do.
And with that same resolve, we will pull back the curtain on the stigma of mental illness. There is not a single family untouched by the effects of this national crisis – including my own. We can no longer allow for our neighbors, our friends, our colleagues or our family members to suffer in silence. We can shatter that stigma with a community response that fortifies our collective efforts and meets our struggling residents where they are. Through new approaches and thanks to the people’s vote, now more than ever we have the means to help them – and we will.
We will do what is necessary to protect the hard fought and hard won civil and equal rights of all our residents, and remain the welcoming city that we are. We will never allow the voting rights of Americans to be stripped away – here or anywhere. We will never tolerate the erosion of healthcare for women – here or anywhere. We will never stand for discrimination against our LGBTQ plus neighbors simply for living as who they truly are – here or anywhere.
And there is a looming challenge that affects the equity of every one of our residents and neighborhoods. We believe in facts and science, that the effects of climate change are real, and that they are happening right now. In fact, many of us believe climate change is the greatest threat to the security and well-being of our nation. This is a time to lead, and our response must rise to the occasion of this challenge – reducing our carbon footprint, powering our city with 100 percent renewable electricity and safeguarding our most vulnerable communities from the health impacts of climate change.
We came to make a city where each neighborhood can become complete, with libraries and parks, with good schools, with plenty of mobility options, and no shortage of affordable housing. We hold true that growth should be directed to where it makes sense, while empowering our neighborhoods to have a greater say in what affects the character and design of their community.
And at the heart of our community are our parks. Why else would so many of our neighborhoods be named after them? If we truly are a city within a park, we must ensure that every resident, from our youngest to our oldest, lives within a ten-minute walk of a park; that our investments reflect the values of our city and neighborhoods; and that our natural places – our rivers, creeks and open spaces – are restored, protected and preserved.
We also believe our mobility system should provide multiple ways to get around town for all people – that connects neighborhoods, provides access and not barriers, and creates unique places. Our streets must change to make way for more transit riders, bike riders and pedestrians. And we must continue to strive for greater safety, with more measures implemented to reduce speeds and reduce conflicts between modes, so fewer and fewer people, until we reach zero, are losing their lives on our streets.
Growth must not only be smart, it must also be growth with equity and growth with justice. Our history is one of our most valuable assets, and it is irreplaceable. There is no equity if development does not embrace that asset and provide a community benefit. There is no justice if histories and cultures and families are lost. We must channel our successes and our resources to fortify our communities and stem displacement. Our focus must be on the people who make this city what it is, on their contributions, on their successes, and on their unbridled possibilities.
In the footsteps of our forbearers, we have come here today to make a city. Together, as one Denver, we are writing the next chapter in the history of our great city. What we write will be determined by our actions and by our common purpose. The oaths we swore carry an awesome responsibility, not just for us today, but for future generations. The full measure of what we do will not be counted in buildings built or dollars spent, but in futures secured.
I will never cease to be amazed in our capacity to dream and in our ability to achieve. We are a city born, steeled and risen in purple mountains majesty, and because of that, it is easier for us to see new horizons and new possibilities. It is easier for us to understand that while we came to make a city, the very act of making a city is never finished.
So, let us rise together to celebrate our purpose, face down our challenges and boldly seize the opportunities before us.
Thank you. God bless you, and may God forever bless the City and County of Denver.