It’s an unusual political situation, and one that hasn’t happened in over two decades. But the race for mayor was close in Denver, so close that there is now a runoff election taking place between current Mayor Michael Hancock and challenger Jamie Giellis. The race may be close, but Mayor Hancock isn’t sweating. He thinks he has what it takes to keep growing the city. We chatted with him about his plans for another term, his goals when he finally does get to relax, and what makes Denver and the queer community so special.
How do you feel about this close race and the runoff situation? Is this something you were expecting?
We believed with a larger number of candidates in the race, a runoff was more likely than not. And so we weren’t surprised, although you never aim for a runoff; you aim to win! [laughs] I don’t think anyone really knows how close the race is, but we’re committed to winning one person at a time, one vote at a time.
What do you think are some of the biggest issues facing Denver right now, and what do you plan to do over the next few years if you are reelected?
You know, amazingly, over the last 10 years, with the growth we’ve seen, with the congestion and the cost of housing resulting from that, I think people want to know going forward that we’re going to work to bring balance and equity to the opportunities within the growing city.
I know that I would much rather be charged to manage the challenges of a growing city then the challenges of a city that is dying and doesn’t have the resources to respond appropriately. We’ve been blessed over the last eight years; it’s been an amazing run. We came out of a recession to become the most economically vibrant city in the country.
But, we have to bring balance to our growth; we’ve got to manage it better. And now that we know that this is the most desirable city, we’ve got to make sure we harness those opportunities going forward. And so that’s what we’re doing.
Really, I believe that balance, that equity, the opportunities to kind of create greater stability for all of our residents, are the challenges going forward and also the opportunities.
What will you do to help fix housing disparities, the high cost of living, and homelessness?
We’re zeroing in on homelessness; homelessness is a very complex issue, so you must bring a multi-prong approach. We are working on expanding access around permanent supportive housing, taking innovative programs and opportunities like Tiny Homes and expanding those, expanding shelter beds in the city of Denver, making sure that we are lowering the barriers to entry in terms of our shelters, and continuing to expand innovative, nationally recognized programs like responders dealing with mental health. Putting mental health professionals in the cars with our police officers has made a huge difference in the city of Denver.
We want to continue to expand and implement our five-year strategic substance misuse plan which is addressing head-on the challenges around alcohol and drug addiction in the city of Denver. We have the tools; we have the strategies; we are implementing them. Now it’s about the next term and really making sure our reach is broader.
On the housing side of things, we also have a $300 million housing fund that we’re implementing. We will spend $16 million this year; our goal is to generate some 6,300 units of housing over the next five years in the city of Denver. We want to lean in on affordable housing and bring in more attainable housing, as well as stabilize the economics around the cost of housing in Denver.
What will you do to further continue to serve and support the LGBTQ community if you are reelected?
It’s very important to me that all disparate groups in our city feel welcomed and included in the city of Denver. When it comes to the LGBTQ folks, we have been tremendous partners; we’ve accomplished a lot together over the last eight years, being the first in a state to conduct a civil union ceremony in Denver and ultimately continue to push for gay marriage in Denver and throughout Colorado.
I’m proud of those accomplishments. My administration was the first to direct the Department of Safety to appoint liaisons to the LGBTQ community to create opportunities for broadening and increasing access to the administration but also to deal effectively with the issues. We collaborate very closely with the LGBTQ Commission on laws for the state as well as ordinances in the city of Denver that might impact the quality of life for the the LGBT community here in the city.
So, my hope, desire, and vision is really to continue our partnership, raising the opportunities around culturally significant and sensitive issues, opportunities in the city of Denver, but also being willing to boldly address those disparities and discriminatory actions that occur in our city or throughout the state of Colorado when they occur, and stand strongly on the importance of making sure that all rights are protected in the LGBT community.
If you are reelected, are you planning on being a part of the PrideFest festivities with a float or getting involved in some way?
Whether or not I’m reelected, I’m going to be a part of it! [laughs] I’ll be there this year, walking in the parade and engaged like I always am.We are always honored to take part in the Pride festival and the parade. And I know our presence makes a difference. You can expect I will continue to lean in.
When you finally aren’t mayor anymore, what do you plan to do?
Sleep! [laughs] But really, I haven’t thought about it much. To be honest with you, family.
Most people don’t realize the human toll a job like this takes on your family, and you walk away, when you’re done, you realize your family’s changed; your children have grown up; they probably married and started having kids.
You have to begin to re establish and strengthen those relationships again, because you’ve been gone so much. So right now, I can just tell you, what I know I will do is figure out how to re-engage with my adult children and begin to strengthen those relationships.
What would you like people to know specifically before they vote?
This is a big decision. This is about how we’ve been able to transform the city and to make sure that we build a city that is inclusive of all people. And while we have challenges as a great city, the fact is, we are a great city, and this city is not in crisis.
It’s important that we do everything we can to address those challenges, but do it from a position of strength and a position of growth as opposed to a city that sees a perception issue in terms of its own identity. I think most people realize we’re a great city; that’s why they’re here. But they want the challenges met, and they want the challenges overcome, and only doing it the Denver way will we be successful. And that’s what I hope to continue doing this term.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would love to have your vote!
Photo courtesy of Hancock for Denver