Safety Net, Jobs, Kids, At Heart Of Hancock’s Agenda | Print |  E-mail

by Paul Kashmann

Creating a more sustainable city is the overriding theme of this administration,” said Mayor Michael Hancock.

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“There’s no better time to recalibrate, reenergize and rethink how we are doing business.”

The mayor’s remarks were directed to representatives of Denver’s community newspapers, invited to the mayor’s office for the first time in recent memory to discuss his plans for moving our city forward in this time of social, political and financial challenges.

Hancock repeated his mantra that under his leadership Denver would become “a world-class city where everyone matters.” In order to achieve that goal, he’s employed a three-pronged focus: creating jobs; supporting our children; and reinforcing Denver’s sagging safety net.

“No sector of our economy creates jobs faster than a robust small business community,” he stated. “We intend to focus on growing small businesses in Denver – helping them get started, and then to nurture them. We want to be the next Minneapolis/St. Paul,” said the mayor, pointing at the Twin Cities as an example of municipalities who have successfully revitalized and expanded their small business base by “growing their own,” rather than focusing on recruiting heavily from outside.

The recently announced JumpStart 2012 initiative, put forth by the mayor and Denver’s Economic Development Director Paul Washington touts Business Retention and Small Business Advocacy at the top of its seven pillar program, which also spotlights Business Recruitment, Sustainable Neighborhood Development, Business Lending, Key Strategic Projects and Workforce Development.

Turning his attention to Denver’s children, Hancock firmly asserted his commitment to their support from Early Childhood Education to high school graduation. “Children are the most important resource we have to move us toward that sustainable future,” he said. “Our goal is to provide services to lift our kids from cradle to career.”

The city must be “a strong partner with Denver Public Schools,” said the mayor. “There are many ways we can work together, to share facilities. It’s impractical to think that all kids will or should go to college. We have people in my office who did not take that path. We want young people to look at all the available options – to think outside the box.”

To strengthen the city’s ability to provide the services children and families will need on their “cradle to career” journey, Hancock has hired Lindsay Neil as director of the Division of Children’s Affairs. Neil currently oversees the Department of Education and Children, but her charge reaches outside the purview of that particular office.

Faced with a budget that allows little new investment, Hancock maintained, “I believe we have enough resources right now to provide the leg up our children need, but they’re spread out around the city without adequate coordination. We hope to maximize what they do by putting them under one roof, under the Division of Children’s Affairs.”

Turning to Denver’s “safety net,” the mayor touted his hiring of new Police Chief Robert White, and Manager of Safety Alex Martinez, as the first step in “restoring trust between the city and its citizens.”

In a recent interview, White declared that after almost four decades in law enforcement in five different cities, Denver’s procedures for investigating accusations of police malfeasance are the most convoluted with which he has dealt. Richard Rosenthal, who recently left his post with the Office of the Independent Monitor – the agency charged with overseeing the internal affairs of the 1,400 member police department – issued a report charging that the DPD had intentionally dragged its feet in previous investigations of its officers.

“The department is demoralized and the trust of the residents has been lost,” the mayor reiterated. “When I was campaigning for office, we promised to reassess the operations of that office (the Independent Monitor),” he said. “We have formed a committee to engage in a nationwide search to find the best available person to move us forward.”

In order to address the broader scope of safety net services, the mayor repeated his resolve to find within the existing service structure the means to care for those in need. “Our most vulnerable citizens are our most distressed right now,” he stated.

“Why do all these departments exist? Where can we eliminate duplication? The police department alone will save $5 million in efficiencies in 2012,” Hancock said.

“We cut many millions of dollars to balance our budget over the last four years,” said the mayor. “We have undertaken the most wholesale review of the efficiency – or lack of – in our city agencies, ever. We hope to create a more sustainable city government, so we don’t have to go through that again."

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