In many ways, challenges that Denver has faced for years came to a head in 2017.
Take, for example, Ink! Coffee's gentrification-sign debacle: A stupid joke about "happily gentrifying" River North landed so badly, it drew days of protests from neighbors and advocates fed up with developers and the wealthy pushing longtime residents of the city's older neighborhoods out of their communities...and also drew unwanted international headlines for Denver. Metro Denver stayed in the limelight in December, when the U.S. Supreme Court finally heard arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, five years after a Lakewood bakery declined to bake a gay couple a wedding cake. And after enduring increasing police sweeps of their encampments and finding fewer opportunities for housing, the homeless finally gained a champion in January when Mayor Michael Hancock announced that Erik Soliván would lead the new Office of Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere.
While Denver grappled with its own issues and scored its own successes, President Donald Trump was busy transforming the executive and judicial branches of the U.S. government, even tapping a local attorney to replace late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Keep reading for more of the year's biggest local news stories, listed in chronological order.
We asked the question in December, nearly a year into his tenure: Can Erik Soliván solve Denver's affordable-housing crisis? Soliván came to Denver from Philadelphia, where he led that city's housing authority, to take over the new Office of HOPE. In addition to pooling resources for the homeless, Soliván oversees Mayor Hancock's five-year affordable-housing plan; announced in September, the plan aims to create and preserve 3,000 housing units and help 30,000 residents secure housing by 2023.
We're still almost a year away from electing a new governor, but that hasn't deterred numerous candidates from jumping into the race. The early bird of a very early bunch was Mike Johnston, who launched his campaign in mid-January — nearly two years before election day on November 6, 2018. The Democrat and former state representative of northeast Denver told Westword that his priorities include stimulating Colorado's economy of the future and providing greater access to career training and post-secondary education. Twenty-nine candidates have since registered with the Colorado Secretary of State, though a few, including George Brauchler and Ed Perlmutter, later dropped out of the race.
On January 19, the Federal Highway Administration issued its Record of Decision, a document more than a decade in the making that cleared the way for the Colorado Department of Transportation to proceed with its controversial Interstate 70 expansion project. But the project's naysayers were hardly deterred. In July, Ditch the Ditch backers, including developer Kyle Zeppelin and man-about-town Brad Evans, sued the FHA in an attempt to kill the project. A judge dismissed the plaintiffs' claims in November...but the fight isn't over yet.
The Trump presidency ignited a fire under activists in Denver. On January 21, the Women's March drew 100,000 to downtown Denver; Trump's ban on some refugees mobilized an angry crowd at Denver International Airport on January 28; the One Billion Rising march denounced the commander-in-chief on February 20; and hundreds gathered on April 15 to demand that Trump release his tax returns. But protest crowds have thinned in recent months, and Queen Phoenix, a major organizer of anti-Trump marches in Denver, reportedly left town before an October court date, when she was supposed to address five felony charges and three misdemeanor charges, all related to marijuana.
On January 31, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. The Republican from Boulder, son of former EPA head Anne Gorsuch, had studied at Oxford, Columbia and Harvard and was serving as a justice on the Denver-based Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite Gorsuch's impressive résumé, his nomination was not without controversy: Liberals and abortion-rights activists immediately denounced the conservative as a threat to Roe v. Wade. Gorsuch took the oath of office on April 10; seven months later, the Washington Post reported that Trump had considered rescinding his nomination after Gorsuch took issue with the president's attitude toward federal judges.