At inauguration, Hancock calls for consensus and downplays criticism

Mayor will serve his third and final term

Michael Hancock, sworn in Monday, July 15, 2019, for a third and final term as Denver's mayor, downplayed possible tensions with new city council members who say they want to hold him more accountable. "You guys seem to be fascinated by personalities," he told reporters. "That's your game." (Photo by Alex Burness)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock kicked off his third and final term in office by promising to champion “progress and progressive ideals,” and said he’d act more boldly than he did in his first two terms.

“If you talk to elected officials around the country, particularly mayors who are term-limited or have a third-term cap on them, they’ll tell you you don’t wait in the third term to expedite, to do things more boldly, and so we will constantly do that, and we’ll be thoughtful about that as well,” Hancock told reporters after giving his inaugural address outside city hall, before a few hundred people in sweltering July heat.

Hancock declared his commitment to solving the myriad issues that plague the city — homelessness, a frequently unaccommodating and occasionally deadly transportation network, displacement and lack of economic mobility, among others.

The city can and will do better, he told the crowd. He pointed to few policy specifics and spoke mostly of general goals, contrasting Denver’s resolve to address challenges with the “ugly politics” and “cynicism” found in the national discourse.

“Consensus is always our aim,” Hancock said. “Consensus fueled an economic revival over the last eight years like none other in Denver’s history. Consensus brought us together to balance our budget, fix our mental health system and repair our infrastructure. Consensus is what brings us together to stand as one Denver in the face of bigotry and bias.”

“There is nothing we can’t do, nor anything that will stand in our way,” he later added.

The crowd Monday morning was a mix of city employees, supporters, family members and friends — both of Hancock and the council members and other city officials being sworn in. There are five new members on the 13-person city council, and one of them, District 9’s Candi CdeBaca, has hired Hancock’s former mayoral rival Lisa Calderón as chief of staff. At the end of Hancock’s speech, her colleagues stood and applauded. She remained seated.

Monday’s crowd size looked smaller than it actually was because, in the intensely hot sun, many attendees and passersby scattered to watch from shady areas.

Hancock downplayed the fact that a handful of protestors were jeering him — mainly about over-policing and homelessness — for nearly every second of his swearing-in and speech. “No justice, no peace,” one man screamed repeatedly for about half an hour.

“The reality is the majority of people came to see their officials sworn in,” Hancock said after the fact. 

One protester, a woman wearing a Colorado Independent shirt, was dragged away by two police officers.

Mayor Hancock was jeered all Monday morning, July 15, 2019, by a handful of protesters. One of them — a woman in a Colorado Independent shirt — was forcibly marched out by two police officers. (Photo by Alex Burness)

But the mayor whose tenure has featured no shortage of scandal, and against whom about 60 percent of Denverites voted in May, did not spend any time in his speech or in his subsequent presser reflecting on how he might change the status quo to address problems within his own administration.

These problems include an airport renovation recently gone awry; City Hall’s cozy relationship with lobbyists, which ethics watchdogs call ethically dubious; and a male-dominated culture within the city’s Department of Safety that about 20 women have described as an alpha-male and, at times, unsafe working environment.

To that last point, Hancock responded to a question from The Independent by initially saying he wasn’t aware that employees have described the safety department’s working environment as being unwelcoming.

“I’ve not heard of those complaints,” he said. “But you know, whenever we have employees who are not happy, concerned in terms of being unwelcoming, we’ll address them. But, anything specific that you’re talking about?”

More than a dozen female jail deputies have alleged in a federal lawsuit that, among other things, higher-ups haven’t adequately protected female employees from “vile, damaging and degrading” remarks and behavior from male inmates. Women have also complained in recent years about treatment from male co-workers in other offices of the safety department, including police and fire.

“I’m going to ask you just to keep your questions relevant to the next four years, the inauguration, please,” intervened Hancock’s spokeswoman, Theresa Marchetta. “That’s kind of why we’re here today.”

Hancock eventually responded that he’d “absolutely” push reform, including “some remedies in terms of how we train our sheriff’s deputies.”

This exchange was typical of how the morning went: Hancock’s written remarks described a thriving city that, like any, has work to do, but that is generally on the correct course. And he glossed over questions about some of the challenges ahead.

Asked about the airport, he responded by saying it’s been rated the best one in North America. Asked about rampant homelessness in the city and discontent some have with his administration’s response, Hancock said that Denver is one of the nation’s leaders in tackling homelessness.

And when asked how he plans to work with a city council that has several new members who’ve pledged to keep the mayor’s office in check, Hancock downplayed possible tension as a media concern.

“You guys seem to be fascinated by personalities,” he told reporters. “That’s your game. We have a city to run, and we’re going to run that city.”

Alex covers state and local politics with a focus on criminal justice and immigration. He is a D.C. native who's lived in Illinois, Chile and now Denver.