Councilman Hancock vows better schools, safer streets if elected Denver mayor

It’s hard to say if every kid growing up in public housing, sometimes with no food or heat, dreams of being mayor. We’re not sure Michael Hancock had that dream as a boy, but we know he has it now.

The Denver city councilman says that if he is elected mayor of Denver next spring, he will make sure that every kid in Denver has a good school in their neighborhood and can walk on safe streets to get there.

His goals are not so different from those expressed by other candidates, so it becomes a question of convincing voters that he is the candidate best able to accomplish those goals.

“Wherever a school exists in the city that has problems, we need to find it and help it succeed. There are too many families in the city who do not have options. We need to correct that situation,” he told The Colorado Independent.

“We will establish the benchmark that every neighborhood should have good school options. We will not stop until that reality is achieved,” he said. “We need to make sure we have quality schools in every neighborhood so that all families have access to quality schools.”

Hancock was clear he does not want the city to meddle in school district business so much as he expects the city to collaborate with the school district. “We want to be their partner, to align our resources with theirs in order to make them more efficient. We can bring a valuable voice to the mission of educating every child with the highest quality of education. We can have collaborative conversations with the school board toward the goal of making every school a high-performing school,” Hancock said.

Noting that Denver has been on a budget-cutting spree for the last few years, with no end in sight, Hancock said city resources need to be allocated to where the need is the greatest.

“I think balanced government brings balanced results. Some parts of town have more challenged schools than others, so maybe you need to focus resources there. Whatever we do, we need to be purposeful in our mission. Oftentimes we try to spread resources so that people think there is equity, but the challenges aren’t equitable. We need to focus on addressing challenges on an equitable basis, but some parts of town need more attention to roads, so you cannot distribute resources equally because challenges are not equally distributed.”

Hancock currently represents northeast Denver on the City Council.

He said the Denver Police Department needs to regain the public trust. “We had a string of very unfortunate incidents that were highly visible. It shakes the confidence of the public to see those kinds of videotapes and read those reports in the media. One thing you can never question in my administration is that we will have the right leadership in place and that we are doing everything we can to build a culture of accountability and respect between the public and the public safety department,” Hancock said.

“We have to address the public safety issue and restore the confidence of the public. It is never OK to breach the trust between the people and public safety. We have some challenges there. The first thing I will do as mayor is to begin to restore that trust, making sure the right leadership and the right tools are in place,” he said.

At the other end of law enforcement, he said people incarcerated in Denver should be able to work on a GED or learn marketable skills while in jail. He said people who come out of jail with a criminal record and no job skills tend to end up back in jail. “You have to get them some skills, or they will be back,” he said.

Hancock takes that same approach to immigration, saying the children of immigrants need to be able to go to college. “I believe in investing in young people. Whether they came here illegally through no fault of their own or not, they are here and we need to help them become productive citizens.”

The economy, though, is the most important issue facing the city, said Hancock. He said his first priority as mayor would be to create jobs.

“Really, this election is about the economy. It’s about our children. We have major challenges, but the key is to turn those challenges into opportunities. Quite frankly, I’m optimistic about directing people around an issue to get us all moving in the right direction to effectively address the issue. I’d like to bring a different kind of energy to the city.

“We have to partner with the private sector to create jobs in the city and to expand small businesses. We need to create opportunities for entrepreneurs. I want us to become the start-up capital of the nation,” he said.

He said city government needs an open door policy with the business community. We have to have an understanding of what small business people know about the market. We have to engage the private sector, and make sure doors are open between business and government. We can’t do this by ourselves. This is not going to be an administration that tries to do things all by itself.”

He said the city can help business people find loans and can also help connect start-ups with venture capital firms. He said there are a lot of venture capital firms in Colorado, but that a lot of their money goes to out of state companies. “I would use the bully pulpit to keep more of that money in Colorado,” he said.

He said he is committed to finishing FasTracks but that any request for more money from taxpayers must be carefully thought out. “We have to deliver this program in the most efficient way possible,” he said.

“One of John Hickenlooper’s top legacies is regionalism and the ability to collaborate across lines. That collaboration is very important for the continued growth and success of Denver.

“One of the things I’m looking forward to In the campaign) is a discussion of ideas. No other council person has had to address challenges I’ve faced in my district with foreclosures, failing schools, brand new neighborhoods being built, neglected neighborhoods. I had to address all these things in challenging economic times. Those issues prepared me to be mayor and they have crossed legislative and executive boundaries,.I’m excited to talk about these things.

“I want the people of Denver to understand that we take great pride in our city. We choose to live in this city.”

He said he will have been a successful mayor if after four years, Denver has grown its economic base, turned around challenged schools and continued to build on its past success in the arts, culture and sports. “Every neighborhood will thrive and children will find opportunities in their own neighborhoods,” he said.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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