Final State of the City focuses on economic justice, housing and policing

Mayor Michael B. Hancock delivered his 2022 State of the City Address, calling on all residents to stay
true to Denver’s values of inclusion and equity, and to pursue justice in all its forms not just over the next year but well into the future. Recalling the economic struggles Denver faced when he took office in 2011, as well as the pandemic and societal challenges of the past 2½ years, Mayor Hancock celebrated residents for fueling the city’s latest resurgence and for transforming Denver into a globally recognized leader.

“We’re moving forward with our eyes set firmly on a city built on justice,” Mayor Hancock said, delivering his final State of the City speech – and the first in-person address since 2019 – in the gymnasium of the Montbello Recreation Center. “Justice has been delayed for far too long for far too many people. The state of our city, recognizing what we’ve come through, is a city in motion – a city in pursuit of justice and opportunity, a city determined to lift up all our residents.”

Mayor Hancock called on residents to stand against divisive rhetoric, to remain welcoming to all, to celebrate the contributions of our LGBTQ+ community, and to stand with women and their right to choose. “Our biggest steps forward always come when we move together, after healthy debate, toward a shared purpose, especially when the aim of that purpose serves the value of justice. “Mayor Hancock presented his agenda for his last year in office, a bold roadmap that will ensure our city remains a city of justice and opportunity for all for years to come.

Housing Justice

Since Mayor Hancock took office in 2011, the city has helped to rehouse more than 13,000 people
experiencing homelessness, create or preserve nearly 9,000 affordable homes, and deliver hundreds of
permanent supportive housing units. The city’s expanded and improved shelter system now operates year-round, tiny homes and safe outdoor spaces are proving to be successful options, more affordable housing is now required in new residential projects, and the city is encouraging the conversion of vacant downtown office space into housing. The city is now committing more than $240 million a year to resolve episodes of homelessness, deliver more affordable housing and put homeownership within reach for more families. To build on this work, Mayor Hancock announced:

  • Intensifying outreach efforts to focus more on rehousing people living in the encampments that grew during the pandemic and using hotels and other properties as bridge housing when unauthorized encampments are decommissioned. 
  • Investing $2 million in ARPA funds into the Denver Basic Income Project to provide more than 140 women and families with $1,000 a month for a year in direct cash assistance, helping them to move from homeless shelters into stable housing and opening space in the shelters to serve more people.
  • Expanding a new down payment assistance pilot for people who lived in neighborhoods targeted by racist practices like redlining to more families seeking to buy homes in Denver, and directing city agencies to collaborate on next steps to help bridge the homeownership gap so that race no longer predicts anyone’s housing outcome.

Promoting Economic Justice

Earlier this year, Mayor Hancock established the city’s first equity-focused business investment fund to
level the lending playing field for minority- and women-owned small businesses. Today, Mayor Hancock

  •  Partnering with community organizations, banks and local businesses to administer the equity fund and grow the fund to $50 million in the next five years.
  • Naming the fund after the late Herman Malone, a veteran of the fight to expand civil rights and a local Black business leader.
  • Opening a new innovation center focused on supporting entrepreneurs of color in northeast Park Hill. The center will be another tool for economic justice and community wealth building, providing an ecosystem for local businesses to start and grow in their own community and have access to resources and support.
  • To support residents struggling with inflationary pressures, Mayor Hancock is charging all city departments to identify ways to cut costs for residents and craft additional ways to provide relief to those who are hurting the most, as well as doing more to promote existing programs, such as rent and utility assistance, eviction assistance and property tax rebates. Eleven years ago, Mayor Hancock promised to chart a course for Denver to become the “Start-up and Small Business Capital of the Country.” Denver now stands as a much more economically competitive and connected city locally and on the global stage. Mayor Hancock is committed to ensuring the pillars of our entire economy remain strong, including: 
  • Continuing to aggressively attract and retain nonstop international flights. Since 2011, the airport has launched 19 new international flights and foreign passenger traffic is up 88%
  • Encouraging foreign and domestic investment in Denver and staying focused on attracting and preparing the most qualified, eager and innovative workforce in the country.

Addressing Climate Change through Climate Justice

Humanity has reached a crisis point in the fight against climate change, and the people who will suffer
the most are the families that are already the most vulnerable. “Every day, every hour, every minute we
delay means unjustly sacrificing our children’s future,” Mayor Hancock said. Denver’s voter-approved Climate Protection Fund is reducing emissions, building resiliency and growing a climate workforce. The fund, not 2 years old yet, is already showing value by supporting low-cost, community solar for schools and low-income families, planting 2,000 new trees in climate vulnerable 
neighborhoods, incentivizing the installation of sustainable electric heating systems, fueling a micro – shuttle Montbello, and funding a popular rebate program for e-bikes.

The Hancock Administration has made a $200 million commitment over the next five years to invest in
climate action, focusing half of it on vulnerable communities most at risk from climate change. This year, the city also will begin to make the largest investment ever in the restoration of the South Platte River, removing hundreds of homes from the floodplain and protecting them from more frequent, intense floods being fueled by climate change. The city will also continue to preserve and add new park land in underserved neighborhoods that also reduce heat islands and our carbon footprint.

Better Policing

Recognizing the simultaneous need for additional police reform and additional efforts to reduce crime,
Mayor Hancock said, “This shouldn’t be a debate over more or less policing. That’s a false choice. It’s
about better policing. Better responses to different circumstances. And better community support to
address the root causes of crime. Too often we’ve called on law enforcement to address social problems better left to other systems of care.”

Over the past 11 years, Denver has been a change leader and innovator, requiring body-worn cameras, rewriting use-of-force policies and promoting de-escalation tactics. Mayor Hancock vowed Denver will continue be a leader by:

  • Hiring more police officers to keep neighborhoods safe and continuing to reduce violent crime through a successful data-driven, precision approach in hotspots across the city.
  • Expanding Denver’s nationally recognized STAR program to redirect police away from calls better handled by public health responders when someone needs help, not handcuffs.
  • Opening a new Assessment, Intake and Diversion Center, providing an alternative to jail for offenders better served by drug treatment and other behavioral health specialists.
  • Improving training programs by bringing on a nationally recognized civilian expert and enhancing educational opportunities for police officers.
  • Advancing the Denver Institute of Racial Equity, Innovation and Reconciliation, which was conceived by Mayor Hancock in the wake of the George Floyd demonstrations in 2020. The organization has officially been established and stakeholder meetings are being conducted to further develop the program and funding strategies. This institute will promote research around racism, bias, inclusion, and practices of reconciliation, as well as the development of programs and trainings for law enforcement and the public, private and education sectors.

Reducing Gun Violence

Police took nearly 2,100 guns off Denver streets in 2021, and more than 1,200 guns so far this year. “The solution to gun violence isn’t more guns,” Mayor Hancock said, which is why my administration has banned ghost guns and concealed-carry weapons in city parks and buildings. To further address gun violence, the Mayor is:

  • Asking City Council to approve funding for a new partnership with the U.S. Attorney to federally  prosecute violent felons found with guns so they face harsher penalties.
  • Calling on Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban. “There is no reason why weapons on war should be for sale in this country,” Mayor Hancock said.

Fighting Fentanyl.

Since 2019, annual fentanyl deaths have quadrupled in Denver – to almost 240 last year, more than car crashes and homicides combined. Over the next two years, Denver will receive its first $8 million from the national opioid settlement. Mayor Hancock is committed to seeing these and other dollars used to reduce overdose deaths and help those who are suffering from addiction by:

  • Expanding the capacity of nonprofit partners who deliver counseling, treatment, harm – reduction, education and other services. Enhancing medicated assisted treatment programs in Denver’s jails, and striving to provide even greater support for inmates after they have been released.
  • Ensuring a full continuum of care for people experiencing addiction, including covering costs of services when personal finances and insurance fall short, and expanding Denver’s mobile response teams to meet people where they are.
  • Hosting a public-health focused fentanyl summit later this fall, as a companion to this spring’ criminal-justice-focused summit.

Investing in the Future – Denver’s Children

Since 2011, voters expanded the Denver Preschool Program and established the Prosperity Denver
Fund, assisting every child who wants to attend college attain their dream. Mayor Hancock and his Administration opened Denver recreation centers to every child for free through the My Denver Card
program, fed thousands of children through after-school meals programs, made record investments in
summer youth employment programs, initiated the free summer RTD ride pass for youth, and joined
former President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper mentorship program. Denver’s first Youth Empowerment Center to provide kids a safe, positive environment is now open. Mayor Hancock announced four more centers will open by 2024.

“Everyone who calls our great city home deserves a fair shot and a fair opportunity at success and an
affordable home. To enjoy clean air and clean water. To have a career that supports them and their
family. To express themselves to the fullest,” Mayor Hancock said. “We remain committed to leaving
this city better than we found it. And while this may be my final year as mayor, I pledge to you that I will
bring the same energy, creativity and intention as if it were my first.”