Mayor John Hickenlooper delivered his seventh State of the City speech yesterday, standing on the Greek Pavilion in Civic Center Park at the start of the work day. It was a stunning setting for a sobering speech; the park's lushness made Hickenlooper's message all the more stark:
There's no money -- in fact, there's less than the city thought even a week ago, before projections came back with a $120 million gap over the next two years, sending the State of the City back for rewrite. "We face our challenges head on, and make tough decisions," the mayor now said. "Our city government must overcome tough times with the same determination that our businesses and families do."
The speech that followed hit on some of the ways the city is positioned to come out of the current mire well and emphasized proactive steps the administration is taking. In all, it was a workmanlike accounting of the city's current state -- appropriate enough, since Hickenlooper ended with the admonition that we all "get to work."
Still, there were some highlights... and low points.
History: An earlier draft of the speech put Denver's dilemma in historic context. But the size of the shortfall is unprecedented, and context got left on the cutting-room floor.
Humor: Hickenlooper, whose quick quips are usually the highlight of his appearances, stayed on script throughout, except for a slip-up that substituted "leaving" for "living." "You'll all be leaving soon," he promised in an impromptu aside.
The National Media: Singer Hazel Miller, too, stayed on script, offering a straightforward "Star-Spangled Banner" with only a few jazz riffs at the end. No Black National Anthem (Renee Marie's surprise substitute last year) meant no easy story for the national media, which left this speech alone.
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Governor Bill Ritter: The governor, who was present along with a host of local and state officials, got name-checked several times in the speech. The city and the state will have to work closely to get the federal dollars now flowing. All those rumors that had Hickenlooper challenging Ritter for the governor's seat appear to have finally, finally dried up.
Union Station: The big renewal project at the heart of LoDo faces some major financing challenges, as Joel Warner reveals in this week's Westword. But in his speech, Hickenlooper emphasized how important it is to keep this plan on track.
Civic Center Park: The park has been looking good all summer, and would host its weekly Tuesday market a few hours after the speech; a concert is on tap for August 8. It wasn't long ago that some of this open space was considered a sacrifice zone for a proposed history museum. Fortunately, it remains a green heart at the center of the city.