Hancock lays out ambitious transportation, housing plans in State of City address, slams Washington

Posted at 12:30 PM, Jul 10, 2017

DENVER –Mayor Michael Hancock laid out an ambitious plan to cut the number of drivers on city roads, increase transit ridership and cycling, while cutting traffic deaths and adding more affordable housing to the city in his 2017 State of the City address, while also taking several shots against the current administration in Washington.

Watch the mayor's full address in the player below or by clicking here.

Hancock announced the “Mobility Action Plan,” which aims to cut the number of single commuters from 73 percent to 50 percent by 2030, and to increase the number of people cycling, walking or using public transit to get to work to 30 percent from 6 percent by the same year.

Also included in that plan is a goal of having zero traffic deaths in the city by 2030 and to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions—a goal of an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Hancock said the plan will also bring repairs to sidewalks and roads, increase the rapid transit services in the city and add more bike lanes throughout the town.

“We’re going to support the next generation of commuters who don’t necessarily think owning a car is the only way to go,” Hancock said.

He said that the city would need to invest at least $2 billion each year until 2030 on its transportation network, and that parts of that investment will be included in his budget proposal to the city council for 2018, which is due in September.

But Hancock did hit state lawmakers for what he says was a lack of attention paid to transportation issues in this year’s session after the same lawmakers boasted some of the issues would be addressed this year.

“Revolutionizing transportation and mobility will take significant investment,” Hancock said. “The state Legislature proclaimed that transportation funding was their No. 1 priority this past session. What they did was kick the can down the increasingly crumbling road.”

Other money will also, Hancock hopes, come from voter approval of a general obligation bond in November aimed at bolstering the infrastructure budget.

Hancock also said he’d deliver a proposed bond package to the council this week aimed at repairing other infrastructure and buildings that house public services.

Hancock says big fixes needed, coming for more affordable housing

And though Hancock touted the city’s growth and successful emergence from the Great Recession, noting the city’s 2.3 percent current unemployment level, he admitted that some people were getting priced out or squeezed out of their longtime neighborhoods.

“We are leading the way, and the state of our city is indeed strong. But it is not strong for everyone,” Hancock said. “It cuts me to the core as I witness my friends and family members get priced out of their homes and entire minority neighborhoods struggle just to get by … Our economics must be accompanied by an empathy and compassion – where profits and people carry equal weight.”

Hancock said that though the city has created 3,000 affordable homes a year ahead of its original goal and thousands more or under construction or in developmental stages, that the supply isn’t keeping up with the demand. More money from the city’s Affordable Housing Fund will be released over the next 10 years to get even more affordable housing built, Hancock said.

“Many residents need an affordable option today, not a year from now … We have apartments sitting vacant because there’s a gap between what it costs and what people can afford,” he said.

In those regards, he announced a pilot program to open 400 currently-vacant apartments to low- and moderate-income residents, and building another 250 supportive housing units for people suffering from chronic homelessness.

“While many worry about losing their homes, the current housing crisis forecasts an even greater loss—the displacement of historic African American and Latino communities,” Hancock said.

In regards to some of the neighborhoods that are more traditionally African-American and Hispanic—including Sun Valley, Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and Montbello—Hancock said that federal housing grants were on their way, and that his forthcoming budget proposal to the city council will include anti-displacement measures for people who have long lived in those areas.

Some of the development in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods could come from a new National Western Center Community Investment Fund, which the neighborhoods will be able to allocate for community improvements. The money will come from revenue generated by the National Western Center.

Hancock touts Denver’s liberal ideals; slams Washington

Hancock summed up his speech Monday by taking a few shots at the current administration in Washington—something that wasn’t exactly a surprise, as Denver has been defiant in the face of several of the Trump administration’s policies.

“They say cities and progressive ideas don’t work. Well, in Denver, they do. If 2.3 percent unemployment, inclusive policies and a drive for economic equity are their idea of what doesn’t work, then I’m not buying what they’re selling,” Hancock said.

Saying “we’ve fought too hard” to implement plans to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions and adhere to the Paris Climate Accord, and to increase health care coverage for Denverites under the Affordable Care Act, he scoffed at some of the Trump administration’s rollbacks and new initiatives.

He also hit back at the increased immigration enforcement against people living in the area illegally.

“We have fought too hard to be a welcoming, inclusive city. Cities should not be punished for Washington’s failure to fix a broken immigration system,” Hancock said. “It’s time to stop threatening our cities, stop targeting innocent people, and get to work on real solutions to bring hard-working undocumented people out of church basements, and out of the shadow.”

But he added that he’d need help from local and state authorities to accomplish the lofty goals he laid out Monday, saying that he wasn’t looking to the feds for aid.

“With Washington cementing its dysfunction 140 characters at a time—it has become clear that any meaningful support from the federal government will end where it has for the better part of a decade—stalled.”

And to sum things up, he nodded to recent civic engagement in the city that has differentiated Denver from some other parts of the country.

“We have marched for women. We have marched for science. We have marched for immigrants and refugees. And every time, we have marched together,” Hancock said.

“Denver, we have fought too hard to let the naysayers drag us down, to let Washington’s dysfunction pull us apart and to think we would ever leave anyone behind. And we will keep fighting.”