Good morning, Denver. Thank you for being here as we embark on a new chapter in our shared history.
Judge Marcucci, members of City Council, Auditor O’Brien, Clerk and Recorder Johnson, distinguished guests and fellow residents: Like you, I love Denver.
With good schools, parks, recreation centers and libraries, this city helped raise me. With solid jobs and good employers, I built my career here. With more opportunity for our future generations, Mary Louise and I chose to raise our children here.
More people than ever before can say those words about our great city. I know I speak for most when I say we are proud of Denver. We are proud of where we started, of what we have become and of what we are creating, together, for the future.
This city is all about overcoming obstacles and realizing possibilities. Always has been.
Over the past four years, we reversed an economic downturn, filled a $100 million hole in our budget and restored services that had been slashed during the great recession. Thanks to that hard work, we are now experiencing one of the most dynamic moments in our city’s history.
Our job market is unparalleled, with 49,000 new jobs and 3,200 new businesses over the past four years plus an unemployment rate of just 4.1 percent today.
Our children have access to the best preschool program in the nation, a public school system that is on the rise, and greater access to libraries, parks and recreation centers than ever before.
Our city government has become one of the most innovative in the nation through Peak Performance, with service delivery that keeps getting better and faster and a workforce that continues to innovate. Denver, our city employees are on the ground every day doing great work. I cannot praise them enough for all they do to make our city a place we can all be proud of.
And that is just the beginning. In four short years, we have delivered new parks for seven neighborhoods, while preserving another 650 acres of open space and 30 miles of trails. We have expanded our global reach to new markets in Asia, Europe, and Central and South America.
We have become a mecca for innovation, attracting visionary companies such as Panasonic Enterprise Solutions and a new generation of startups like the digital health firm iTriage. With our courageous Clerk and Recorder Deb Johnson, we declared that love is love with civil unions and now, with the assent of the Supreme Court, full marriage equality.
These achievements have not been singular, nor do they belong to one person. These achievements have been hard-fought together, and harder-won together. We are transforming this city while holding dear the values of who we are.
We have positioned ourselves at the vanguard of progress and the whole world is noticing because it is Denver.
People want to be here, and stay here. We are proud to call this city home, and proud to live and work in vibrant neighborhoods.
From Ruby Hill to Park Hill, Sun Valley to Bear Valley, Jefferson Park to University Park and everywhere in between, our neighborhoods are regenerating. Small businesses are booming.
New restaurants are opening. Exciting shops and plazas are bringing people together, transforming ordinary spaces into unique places where we share this great city together.
We have boldly moved to build Denver for the future, and today our city’s energy emanates from our neighborhoods. They are the building blocks of our next generation economy, where a main street mentality is leading to diverse communities that are investing in their own backyards.
To maximize that momentum, over the past four years we have directed significant resources into neighborhoods by building libraries, playgrounds, and ball parks, attracting new grocery and retail stores and investing in new transit stops.
Today, those transit stops are better connecting our neighborhoods with our urban core thanks to the amazing new Denver Union Station, which is transforming lower downtown. With it has come new jobs, new housing and two new grocery stores as well as myriad other reasons to be downtown after work or on weekends. All because our pride in this great city helped us to recognize the value of our historic train depot and create a vision to remake this Denver treasure.
I see possibilities, big and small, to drive this energy into all of downtown. We will do exactly that by reimagining the 16th Street Mall, the Denver Performing Arts Complex and downtown parks and outdoor spaces.
It serves all of us to want to keep coming to our city core; to bring our friends and family to show off a more exciting mall; to visit the theater district during the day for shopping and dining and entertainment. The possibilities are endless. Let’s keep our downtown something we can all be proud of.
When I took office four years ago, I was determined to keep the National Western Stock Show in Denver. As an event that has helped define this city, I promised you that we would find a way to make it thrive for another 100 years. The Stock Show brings people to Denver from all over the world for two weeks in January, but what about the rest of the year?
This fall, voters get the chance to approve the new National Western Center; to say yes to year-round entertainment, recreation, commerce and research; to support a partnership with Colorado State University that will create thousands of new jobs and further strengthen our economy; to open up new access to the South Platte River and 80 acres of open space; and to create greater access to public transportation. Like Union Station, the new National Western Center will connect the best of our past with the immense possibilities of our future.
The National Western Center is one essential element of my vision for the Corridor of Opportunity, which stretches from downtown all the way to Denver International Airport. As our gateway to the world, DIA already brings more than 26 billion dollars a year to the state’s economy, and that, too, is just the beginning.
After more than two years of work with Adams County and the cities surrounding the airport, we have come together with a proposal that will bring new types of commercial business and thousands of new jobs to the airport and neighboring communities, with all of us sharing the economic benefits.
Not since the airport was built 20 years ago, not since voters approved FasTracks more than a decade ago, have we achieved such a degree of regional cooperation. I was extremely proud to stand with our regional neighbors just a month ago to present this plan to voters for their consideration this fall. We exemplified the best aspect of our region: reaching toward the future together.
We are just scratching the surface of possibilities that development at the airport brings. I am pumped to get the new hotel open in November and begin train service from the airport to Denver Union Station in the spring.
By leveraging these strengths, we brought the new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to Denver. By leveraging these strengths, we have established a global partnership with United Airlines. By leveraging these strengths, Panasonic is building a hub of innovation and smart living at 61st and Peña, the likes of which have never been seen before. And we are not stopping there.
We are setting the stage for even more job creation by continuing to position Denver as a leader in innovation and tech, by creating an ecosystem for emerging sectors, and by growing a highly skilled labor force to meet tomorrow’s opportunities today.
Just imagine, next generation businesses moving or growing in Denver and then choosing to locate at rail stations throughout the city that are primed for smart development and smarter living – and connected to the region and the world.
I could not be more excited about our future. This is a critical moment in our history. We must have the courage and foresight to think about the future, to plan for the city our children will inherit.
Change always comes so quickly. We will be smart, and we will listen, as we have always done in order to shape the future into one we can all enjoy.
While it is critical that we keep our airport and transit system strong, the ability to travel in and around the city is also paramount to Denver’s continued progress.
We have been expanding reliable, safe transportation options that move you through your daily commute, help you get the kids to school, and help you get to work, the store and home.
We have made major enhancements to Broadway, Federal and 6th Avenue, and soon, we will begin improving Brighton Boulevard and Quebec Street. We are upgrading busy intersections, providing smarter parking options at popular destinations like South Broadway and fixing the timing of traffic signals on Colorado Boulevard.
But cars are no longer the only ones using Denver’s roads. More people are walking, biking, busing, scootering, Ubering and tuk-tuking around town. We need more sustainable choices, and it is clear we will not receive meaningful federal aid as Congress continues its failure to pass legislation that will help cities fix their aging infrastructure.
I am proud to say that we are creating those choices with you. We are working to make bus rapid transit a reality along East Colfax, more protected bikes lanes are coming to downtown, and new pedestrian bridges and sidewalks are popping up in neighborhoods.
New realities demand new ways of thinking, so we will be increasing our focus on mobility. That takes vision, that takes leadership and that takes significant investment. Over the next year, I have tasked my team with creating actionable steps to safely and efficiently move you around this great city of ours.
How we get to and from work, school and home is foundational to our lives. So is safe, attainable housing. That is why I have challenged the community to produce as many affordable housing units as possible. We need to help fix old units, create new units or maintain existing units. We need to keep Denver affordable, together.
Already, we have spurred the creation of almost 2,000 new affordable units, we have helped hundreds of families with down payment and mortgage assistance, and created a $10 million dollar revolving loan fund to keep the momentum going. But it is not nearly enough.
I hear from families who fear they will be priced out of their homes, or forced to live far from where they work or go to school. We cannot afford to lose housing for our teachers, firefighters and nurses any more than we can afford to lose businesses because their workers cannot find decent housing. And we cannot afford for our state legislature to continue to play politics with construction defects reform.
I have directed my team to examine what actions we can take at the local level to solve what state lawmakers won’t. Denver needs more solutions, and we need them now. In my 2016 budget proposal, I will more than double this year’s commitment, allocating $8 million to preserve and build affordable homes. I will also make funding a sustainable priority by working with the Denver City Council, housing providers, developers and all of you to dedicate specific resources to this growing need.
In the months ahead, we will refine a plan to generate at least $15 million every year to produce nearly 6,000 units of affordable housing.
In addition, we intend to move forward with other strategies to produce, protect and rehabilitate affordable housing in Denver – everything from modifying the affordable housing preservation ordinance to providing tax and fee relief to developers of affordable and mixed income housing. We hear you, we stand with you, and we will create possibilities together.
Friends, over 10 years of work by Denver’s Road Home, and an impressive network of providers and partners, we have kept an estimated 12,000 families from falling into homelessness and helped more than 9,000 individuals rebuild their lives. I am so proud of that work.
In the coming months and years, new efforts will take an even smarter approach to serving our most vulnerable. The Lawrence Street Community Center and Courtyard Project will bring the homeless in off the street, providing them a dignified place to wait for services at the Denver Rescue Mission. We will also provide intensive support, stabilization and housing for those in crisis through two new projects.
I truly believe the greatest measure of a city is how it helps its most vulnerable. It is time for us to buck the age-old stigma of mental illness. Through the creation of our Behavioral Health Strategies division, we embark on what we believe to be the country’s first city effort to coordinate streamlined services around our people with behavioral health needs.
One of the reasons Denver has so often succeeded where others have not is that we do not turn away from challenges. Together, we find opportunity.
When we came into office in 2011, we vowed there would be a new day for the Denver Police Department. That day has come.
Body cameras signify increased accountability and transparency, and nearly all officers on patrol will be wearing them by 2016. New means of communication have expanded our ability to provide you with real-time information. Finally, by hiring more officers and boosting neighborhood patrols, we are fostering stronger relationships between officers and the communities they serve.
As the reform of the Sheriff Department continues, together with the community and deputies we are addressing the challenges head on. With a new sheriff soon at the helm and a roadmap in hand, we will ensure this department realizes its potential.
Although Denver has not been immune to the racially charged issues that have besieged the nation, we have taken the responsibility to bridge these divides. One of my proudest moments in the past four years was sitting and listening to students and community members open up about the racial issues they face every day. The courage of our people, young and old alike, to come together with honesty and integrity has helped us grow stronger in our resolve to treat each other with respect and find our way to a united tomorrow.
Together, with engaged residents and a new, highly functioning school board, we have shown the country what a city united can do for its kids.
We offer Denver’s youngest a smart start in preschool through the reauthorized and expanded Denver Preschool Program. We offer a school system that is graduating more of Denver’s youth. We offer more families access to recreation and out-of-school programs in their own neighborhoods.
I am excited to announce that, with the help of DPS, every student will automatically be enrolled for the MY Denver Card when they register for school in the fall! The reality is the city has the greatest opportunity to impact our kids after school and during the summer. The MY Denver Card offers more than 100,000 children free access to recreation centers, pools, libraries and cultural centers. In June alone, more than fifty-thousand kids used our recreation centers.
Denver, we have an obligation to do right by our kids by preparing them for the future. They should represent the very best we have to offer. For example, this summer more than 600 elementary school students in Southwest Denver and in Montbello got to be engineers. They built cars that ran on water, tested them and competed against each other to see whose design was best. It did not cost their parents a dime. Thank you to CH2M and the National Society of Black Engineers for their partnership.
But efforts like these summer camps will be for naught if our kids do not have the opportunity to access college. I am proud that a group of education, civic and business leaders has come together and will ask City Council to refer a measure to the ballot to help make college more affordable, attainable and accessible. Denver, you can bet that I fully intend to stand side-by-side with them to get it passed.
Today and every day, I am proud of this city. I love Denver. We were raised on possibilities and born of sheer will. We don’t give up. We lead the way in an age of innovation because we are not 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.
Like our forebearers who built a railroad to keep the future from passing us by, the future is in our hands.
I am proud of this city. I am proud and honored to continue to serve as your Mayor. I cannot wait to experience what the future has in store for this place we are all lucky enough to call home.
The oaths we take today reaffirm the people’s trust to protect what we all cherish for our children and our children’s children. It is our solemn duty to continue the progress we have made, to build on greatness.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the City and County of Denver.