Hancock calls for more livable, affordable Denver in annual address

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Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver

DENVER — In his third State of the City Address, Mayor Michael Hancock celebrated getting Denver back on solid fiscal footing and pledged to focus on making the city more livable and affordable as it continues to grow.

“Our city is thriving,” Hancock told a crowd of city officials, officeholders and political gadflies who gathered Monday morning at the Denver Art Museum.

“We have marched out of the recession. Neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community, family by family we are emerging as a city of opportunity for all people.”

As the Union Station expansion nears completion in Lower Downtown and peripheral urban neighborhoods like Highlands, River North and Curtis Park continue to gentrify as a result of a growing economy, tourism and innovation sector, Hancock announced plans to increase affordable housing using social impact bonds.

“While our city’s population has spiked in recent years, our housing stock has not kept pace,” Hancock said. “This gap is exacerbated by rising home prices, which are good news for homeowners and our local economy, but a challenge for many residents and families.”

Hancock announced plans to roll out a new Denver Housing Plan in the coming year with a focus on Transportation Oriented Development (TODs), called on the state legislature to modify a construction defects law and vowed to provide more coordinated health, employment and housing services for the city’s at-risk population.

“It is time to break the cycle from streets to emergency rooms to jails and back to the streets,” Hancock said.

Hancock also said that the voter-approved property tax hike passed in 2012 has enable Denver to address its structural fiscal deficit and provide additional services to improve the quality of life for residents: additional police officers and firefighters, improved public parks and libraries that are open longer.

“I was blessed to grow up in Denver, where opportunities at city recreation centers, parks and a good public school system helped shape the person that I am today,” Hancock said. “It is vital to me that our children, and our grandchildren, are provided at minimum those same kinds of opportunities no matter what neighborhood they live in.”

This November, Hancock is asking voters to approve and expand the Denver Preschool Program.

“Denver, when we summon the will, there is nothing we cannot do,” Hancock said.

One of the loudest ovations of the entire speech came when Hancock, recognizing the public officials sharing the stage with him, lauded Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson, who made Denver the second Colorado city to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last week.

“We are proud to stand with you on marriage equality now,” Hancock said, prompting a standing ovation.