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Mayor Hancock Delivers State of the City Address Amid Challenging Times for our Community

Denver - Mayor Michael B. Hancock today delivered the annual State of the City Address, focusing on the city’s resolve to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, a weakened economy, homelessness, an increase in violent and youth crime, and systemic racism.

Amid the national call for reform in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, the Mayor recommitted to keeping Denver a law enforcement and social justice innovator. He also announced a new initiative – the Denver Institute of Equity and Reconciliation – to tackle institutional racism and bias.

Read the Mayor’s 2020 State of the City Address.

“In these last few months, we’ve faced uncertainty, upheaval and loss. But we have also acted with resolve. Resolve to define together what a better city looks like – and attain it. The resolve to create a better future, where we elevate the commonality of the human experience in our decision-making,” Mayor Hancock said in his 10th major address since taking office in 2011. “These temporary public health measures are about social responsibility, yours and mine – to ourselves, each other and the welfare of our city, state and nation. It’s about saving lives. It’s about recovering our economy so that those who have been furloughed or laid off can get back to work and caring for our families.”

“Where we are today isn’t where we thought we’d be back in January. But know this: we will come back better than we were before. I know this because we have done it before,” the Mayor continued. “We did it after the Great Recession when we took Denver from one of the toughest economies in the country to one of the best. We know how to create jobs and grow an economy – and this recovery must have a social conscience.”

For the past four months, the city, partner organizations and residents have mobilized to protect our community and support our neighbors from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding to this public health crisis has required an extraordinary effort to do what was necessary to save the city.

Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The city, remaining in a state of emergency, continues to maintain a daily operational response effort to the COVID-19 pandemic, including testing sites, contact tracing, public health order enforcement, sheltering operations for persons experiencing homelessness, outbreak investigations, PPE procurement, and public health guidance and policy development. The city has deployed over $53 million to date to support this response.

  • Without a national strategy for testing, through the state’s largest testing site at the Pepsi Center, mobile unit deployment and community-based sites, as well as the work of local hospitals and healthcare providers, nearly 110,000 tests have been administered in Denver since the start of the pandemic.
  • Denver has been able to procure over 2.5 million masks, nearly 1.5 million gloves, 378,335 gowns and 75,478 face shields for distribution to those working on the front lines of the response efforts.
  • As shelters reduced capacity due to physical distancing requirements, the city stood up two 24-hour auxiliary shelters to support, on average, 615 men and 187 women daily, as well as 700 motel rooms for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are at higher risk of contracting the virus.

Denver is working now to ensure a six-month reserve of personal protective equipment going into the fall when COVID-19, as well as the seasonal the flu, could put additional pressures on our hospital system. The city’s Long-Term Recovery Committee also has developed a Recovery Action Plan to support employees and employers; address public health disparities; and ensure community feedback and equity in the ongoing recovery efforts.

Supporting Economic Recovery

With local businesses forced to temporarily close and thousands of residents out of work, Mayor Hancock brought together leaders in our key industries to strategize the relief needed to help people and local businesses stay on their feet. To date, that work has mobilized city government to provide an initial $2 million in financial support to over 800 small businesses; rent and mortgage support to help people stay in their homes; PPE kits and expanded outdoor spaces for restaurants; and community food drives and free testing to support residents and families.

The city recently deployed an additional $20 million in federal funds to support residents and businesses struggling with the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with housing relief, non-profit and business relief, food assistance, and public health and safety needs. A second round of funding is currently in development in collaboration with the city’s Economic Relief and Recovery Council and City Council.

To drive a recovery with a social conscience, Mayor Hancock has been laying the foundation for a more just economy: raising the minimum wage, making record investments in affordable housing and services for those experiencing homelessness, and reshaping the city’s focus to bring more equity to zoning, where new parks should go, expanding mental health services and improving transportation.

To begin to rebuild our local economy with more opportunity for the people of our city, the Mayor outlined initial steps the city will take to reignite economic activity:

  • Keep our other public projects on track, and accelerate our bond and critical infrastructure programs where resources are already secured, with more involvement from women- and minority-owned businesses, to get people back to work while making neighborhood improvements sooner; and
  • Driving a good jobs strategy, in partnership with the business community, to improve employment and create new jobs with better pay, better benefits and better advancement opportunities in emerging industries and new pathways for all residents of Denver.
  • Removing barriers holding back our residents from the prosperity they’ve earned, starting with waiving fees and speeding up approvals for five affordable housing projects and five green projects to show where our priorities are.
  • Embracing the green economy as an opportunity to build, from the ground up, an entirely new industry sector, create good jobs for people, lower families’ utility costs, and begin to correct the health and environmental injustices in our communities impacted the most.
  • Responsibly managing appropriately the city’s $227 million budget shortfall caused by COVID-19 to maintain the essential services residents depend on, while making where we can investments to strengthen the social fabric of our city; approaching it with an equity lens, so the people working hardest, who’ve been hit the hardest, don’t face the brunt of it alone; and calling on Congress to immediately renew unemployment benefits to workers who are struggling and passing direct aid to cities and states.

Supporting People Experiencing Homelessness

Addressing encampments during the pandemic, following CDC guidelines and caring for those from surrounding communities has complicated the challenge of supporting our residents experiencing homelessness. Even during this pandemic, Mayor Hancock and city agencies have never stopped working toward better ways to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness.

  • As an emergency public health response, harm reduction strategy and effort to close neighborhood encampments, the city will permit temporary Safe Outdoor Spaces in more managed, safer, and sanitary conditions where people can be connected to critical services.
  • Mayor Hancock also called on residents to support a proposal brought forward by Councilwoman Robin Kniech and our city’s shelter operators and service providers, to bring in the funding necessary to create better shelters, expand services and deliver more housing options.

Race and Social Justice

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain, among too many others, sparked a nationwide call for changes to law enforcement. Since entering office, Mayor Hancock and his administration have been focused on building a more community-oriented public safety system, including:

  • Rewriting the discipline matrix early on to increase accountability and working with the community to rewrite and train for a more progressive use of force policy that emphasizes de-escalation;
  • Conducting a complete reform of our sheriff department operations, policies and trainings;
  • Creating new programs to send mental health and behavioral health professionals, medical professions, or social workers to respond to certain situations instead of an armed officer;
  • Requiring all officers both on and while working off duty to wear body cameras, one of the first departments in the country to do so; and
  • Creating the Opportunity Index, headed by the Department of Safety, to refocus public safety efforts at the root causes and public health drivers of crime instead of just responding to the outcomes.

Hearing the calls from the community to do more faster, Mayor Hancock has directed Police Chief Paul Pazen and Public Safety Executive Director Murphy Robinson to lead city efforts to listen, engage and act with the community to continue to improving policing in Denver.  

Racism is a public health crisis. Understanding that to begin a debate about racism and its generational impacts by zeroing in on the actions of law enforcement, is to acknowledge just one symptom of the virus of institutional racism and bias. To address this challenge as the public health crisis that it is, Mayor Hancock has formed a group of academics, civic and civil rights leaders, faith leaders, diversity, equity and inclusion experts, and public safety experts to begin the process of establishing the Denver Institute of Equity and Reconciliation through public-private partnerships.

The vision is for this institute to become the national leader in research of racism, bias, inclusion, practices of reconciliation, and development of programs and trainings for law enforcement and the public, private and education sectors.

Addressing Rising Crime and Youth Violence

Rising crime – particularly violent crime among young people – is posing additional risks in Denver and cities nationwide. Mayor Hancock has directed members of his administration, led by City Attorney Kristin Bronson, to work with youth and youth-serving organizations to create a community-driven plan to support them. These efforts will be more than just anti-youth violence, also comprehensive strategies to promote and develop healthy youth and productive adults. Addressing it from a public health perspective as well a law enforcement perspective, this effort will focus on creating new, healthier and safer environments for our children and youth in Denver.

“Moving forward together and getting through these times together does not mean that we will always agree,” Mayor Hancock said “Disagreement is healthy. Dysfunction is not. And if there was ever a time when people needed functional, collaborative and effective government, surely, it’s now. Whether in Washington or Denver, our recovery depends on government that works, and an open, transparent collaboration with the people.”