DENVER -- Under a blazing summer sun and in front of a few hundred supporters, Denver’s new city council was sworn in to office Monday.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock delivered his third and final inaugural address to the city, touching on everything from affordable housing to criminal justice reform.
The speech also addressed several hot-button national issues like detention of families who cross into the U.S. illegally as well as the testy political rhetoric which continues without an end in sight.
“Without question, these are challenging times. Our national discourse, once filled with hope and optimism, has been replaced with cynicism, hate and anger that stoke the ugly politics of division,” Hancock said in his address.
Mayor Hancock doubled down on Denver’s commitment to protect those who are facing apprehensions and deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Denver was one of several large cities expecting ICE raids over the weekend. However, those raids never materialized.
“When we see children in cages at our southern border; when families are torn apart, and our community is targeted for deportation raids; when our neighbors are forced to take sanctuary in churches – our resolve will only grow stronger. We will stand together as one Denver to shield our residents from being the targets of any radical and hate-filled agenda."
Several Denver churches have been quietly acted as temporary shelters for asylum seekers whose numbers are overwhelming facilities in New Mexico like the Annunciation House.
Aside from immigration, the mayor also addressed the need to protect civil rights on a national and local level.
“We will never allow the voting rights of Americans to be stripped away – here or anywhere. We will never tolerate the erosion of healthcare for women – here or anywhere. We will never stand for discrimination against our LGBTQ+ neighbors simply for living as who they truly are,” he said.
On a local level, the speech spoke about the need to address the stigma of mental health and find a way to bring those suffering in silence out of the shadows so that they can seek treatment.
The mayor spoke about the need for more criminal justice reforms, saying more needs to be done to address the devastation caused by the war on drugs.
Earlier this year, the city hosted a first-of-its-kind clinic to help people with old, low-level marijuana convictions get their records expunged as part of the Turn Over a New Leaf program.
The inauguration, however, was interrupted by several demonstrators who were protesting the homeless sweeps happening around the city in recent months. Two protesters had to be physically removed from the event by Denver Police officers for shouting at the mayor while he was taking his oath of office.
Hancock spoke briefly about the issue of homelessness, saying the city will pursue a rapid housing response program and saying the city will treat those experiencing homelessness with compassion.
Numerous other protesters across the street from the inauguration were holding signs speaking out against the recent roundup of geese from city parks by the USDA.
The speech also addressed things like the need for a livable wage for workers, climate change, transportation, economic mobility, the need for more parks, affordable childcare and growth among other things.
The city recently passed a $15 per hour minimum wage for Denver government employees, which will go into effect by 2021.
“The third term is an opportunity to be bold, to be innovative and creative, but you also have to be focused,” said Hancock in an interview with Denver7 after the inauguration.
Hancock said one of his biggest priorities during this term will be addressing the rising cost of housing in the Denver Metro Area and the effect it’s having on families.
“Our commitment is real; we have to do it more expeditiously, which we’re always looking for opportunities to speed it up and try to address people. Not only that, but how do we do this in the long term with land trusts and land banking and coveting certain properties so we can preserve and expand what we already have,” he said.
The mayor wouldn’t say whether he is considering a political future after this four-year term.
However, Hancock said he will be measuring the success of his tenure in office by the way his administration sets the city up for the future through a progressive agenda and inclusivity.
“We will measure this by making sure that we were good stewards of the city government as well as the major projects that the people have entrusted with us,” he said.