Denver Government

Top Ten Takeaways From Hancock's Final State of the City Speech

Mayor Michael Hancock delivered his final State of the City speech on July 18.
Mayor Michael Hancock delivered his final State of the City speech on July 18. Evan Semón Photography
On July 18, lame-duck Denver mayor Michael Hancock sang his swan song: his final State of the City address, delivered at the Montbello Recreation Center. After being elected three times, Hancock is term-limited; at this time next year, a new mayor will be sworn in.

In the meantime, here are ten takeaways from Hancock's 2022 State of the City:

Plenty of Pomp

While the past two State of the City presentations felt totally tame — owing to the pandemic, they were both virtual — the 2022 event was an in-person ceremony, with a few hundred attendees and performances by both Brothers of Brass (BYO earplugs) and the Denver Municipal Band to perform during the program. The city had also created a slick video and photo montage of Hancock throughout his tenure as mayor, highlighting his accomplishments over the years...and the fact that Hancock's voice has dropped since 2011.

Hancock Acknowledges Kicking Can Down the Road

Throughout Hancock's tenure, homeless-rights advocates have been telling the Hancock administration in every way they can — speeches, lawsuits — that encampment sweeps simply kick the can down the road. When people are forced to leave, they usually just relocate nearby. And Hancock actually acknowledged that during his speech. "By using hotels and other properties as temporary bridges to something more permanent, we can do a better job moving people off the streets and into stable housing, and not just down the street to another encampment," the mayor said.

Investing $2 Million in Denver Basic Income Project

The State of the City speech didn't include any major policy proposals. But there were a few minor ones, such as earmarking $2 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Denver Basic Income Project. The money would go toward a new project that will provide monthly cash assistance to more than 140 women, transgender and non-gender-conforming individuals, and families in shelters. Each participant will get $1,000 a month for a year. "This will help them move into stable housing, and provide support so they can stay housed, while opening space in our shelters to serve more people," Hancock said.

Shout-Outs to Smaller Programs That Work Well

In recent years, the Hancock administration has supported a number of extremely successful smaller initiatives. Hancock gave shout-outs to a few of them, including safe-camping sites, which he'd initially opposed. He also saluted the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, which sends a paramedic and a mental health clinician to crisis situations that don't merit a police response; that program has gotten national acclaim for its success.

And Hancock also praised the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency's e-bike rebate program, which cuts the price of e-bikes anywhere from $400 to $1,700 for some lucky Denver residents. "That rebate program is so popular, you crashed our website, which tells us that indeed there was a market for it," Hancock said, acknowledging that the system was overwhelmed on July 11.

Working With Feds on Guns

Hancock announced that he wants the City Attorney's Office to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office to "prosecute violent felons found with guns in violation of federal law." If the funding is approved by Denver City Council, city attorneys will be deputized as special assistant U.S. attorneys so that they can coordinate with the feds on cracking down on illegal gun possession cases. "We’re going to bring greater resources to bear to prosecute individuals under harsher federal law to combat gun violence in our city," Hancock said.

Still Waiting for Think Tank to Battle Racism

Two years ago, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, Hancock announced that the city would form the Denver Institute of Racial Equity, Innovation and Reconciliation. Since then, however, little action has been taken regarding this proposed institute that would "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." Now, though, Hancock announced that a board has been formed and that "stakeholder meetings are being conducted to further develop the program and funding strategies."

Hancock Starts to Define Own Legacy

In his speech, Hancock hinted at what he'd like to be seen as his legacy. "When I became Mayor, Denver was struggling to recover from the Great Recession. We rebuilt our economy, created new opportunities and reinvested in our neighborhoods. Denver not only came back, we roared back — becoming a leader by almost every metric," Hancock said before skipping forward several years, to right during the pandemic and how it put the city's "amazing progress" on hold. "But we’ve made it, and with a renewed sense of purpose about who we want to be as a city, we are rebuilding yet again. Our recovery is strong. We’re moving forward – with our eyes set firmly on a city built on justice," Hancock said.

Possible Mayoral Candidates Show Up

Several people mentioned as potential contenders in the 2023 mayor's race showed up, including House Speaker Alec Garnett, who is term-limited from running again for the Colorado House and told Westword that the window is "slightly ajar" to consider a run for mayor. Also on hand were state representatives Leslie Herod and Alex Valdez, both considering runs. And while Ean Tafoya, an environmental activist who's already announced, didn't attend the State of the City, one of his supporters, Brian Loma, was there, taking notes for Tafoya — who plans to deliver his own State of the City speech this week.

Candi CdeBaca Doesn't Show

Twelve of the thirteen members of Denver City Council sat on the stage during Hancock's speech. Missing was Candi CdeBaca, Hancock's chief critic on council. CdeBaca, who represents District 9, says that she spent the morning "discussing ideas and solutions with the actual future of this city — our youth," instead of "listening passively to an overblown and inaccurate retrospective of the past twelve years that have brought us to current multiple intersecting crises facing our city."

Unremarkable Remarks

Overall, Hancock's final State of the City was most remarkable for being largely unremarkable. There were no major policy proposals, no significant statements. Much of it could have applied to almost any city in America. "The state of our city, recognizing what we’ve come through, is a city in motion," Hancock said. What motion is that? The only thing on which most people can agree is that he will soon be going out the door.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.