Hancock Reflects on Highlights of First Year in Office
by Ryan Jardine
rom hosting major national events to an influx of new, young residents, Denver is facing a period of increasing opportunity. Looking to seize these opportunities is Mayor Michael B. Hancock, who recently wrapped up his first year as Denver’s mayor. His first year encompassed a wide range of activities from the appointment of a new chief of police, manager of safety, and county court judges, to preparing for a presidential debate. I recently sat down with Hancock to discuss Denver, his first year in office, his experiences with the legal community, and his vision for Denver moving forward.
Growing Denver: Coming for ‘entrepreneurialism and innovation’
In discussing some of the most significant accomplishments during his first year, Hancock pointed to two areas that are attracting business to Denver.
“The biggest accomplishment, but also the one that surprised us that we were able to accomplish it so much sooner than we thought, was the nonstop flight to Tokyo,” he said. “I’d been working on that for years as a city council member. To do it in the first year, the first term was like, ‘Wow.’”
This flight, as well as bringing in the international carrier Icelandair, is estimated to produce a combined $158 million in economic benefits, as well as provide additional markets to Denver businesses. The mayor credits this accomplishment to the willingness of Denver to open up to business, work outside the box, and renegotiate United’s deal at the airport.
Hancock also noted the importance of Denver being selected as one of the new locations for a new U.S. Patent Office. Attorneys in Denver were among the early supporters of bringing the office here. “The region had been working on this for quite some time,” he said, “and having it land in Colorado and land in Denver is huge for us.”
Denver is growing, and it is young. “25- to 34-year-olds are moving to Denver at a scale that’s not being seen anywhere else in the country,” Hancock said. “They are coming here for entrepreneurialism and innovation. It is time for investment; it is time for innovation and growth.”
Supporting ‘the most vulnerable in our community’
In addition to discussing Denver’s economic accomplishments, Hancock shared his experiences with the legal community in his first year. When appointing judges, a new chief of police, and establishing a new domestic violence center, the city’s most vulnerable individuals were of utmost importance.
This year, Hancock evaluated six judicial candidates for two Denver County Court vacancies. In Denver County, once a vacancy is declared, a judicial nominating committee meets, vets, and nominates three candidates for each vacant seat. The mayor has 15 days after receiving the nominations to make the appointment.
Hancock looked to others with experience in this area to provide advice on the considerations inherent in appointing a judge. This included consultations with several individuals, including President Barack Obama and two former Denver mayors, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Wellington Webb.
Each gave very similar advice. They told the mayor that each of the nominees knows the law; otherwise, he or she wouldn’t have been nominated. The decision rests on the intangibles and values the nominee brings to the city.
Taking this advice, among other considerations, Hancock examined each nominee’s history, community engagement outside the law, and socially conscious endeavors. In September, he appointed Gary Jackson and Nicole Rodarte to fill the vacancies created by the retirements of Judge Andrew Armatas and Judge Aileen Ortiz-White in January.
Hancock also appointed a new chief of police in October 2011. The mayor indicated that the significance of hiring an officer from outside the department cannot be understated, as it has not been done in Denver in more than 50 years.
“Chief White brings 40 years of experience,” Hancock said.“There is not much he hasn’t seen in leadership in a police department. We needed to make a clear statement that ‘business as usual’ is over and there is a new day. Not just for today, but for the next generation of officers coming through.”
This year, Hancock also announced plans to assist victims of domestic violence. Denver is creating the Rose A. Andom Center—one place where victims of domestic violence can go to receive a broad range of services. This is in contrast to the current status, where victims of domestic violence may be required to go to more than 20 places to get legal and other services. “It is about taking everything we do under domestic violence and putting it under one roof,” Hancock explained.
At the center, there will be magistrates, detectives assigned to domestic violence cases, and social services staff to assist victims with medical care, housing, and child protection.
Projected to open in October 2013, the center also will create opportunities for attorneys to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence. Attorneys interested in learning more may contact Margaret Abrams at (720) 913-9080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hancock praised the work that members of the Denver Bar Association do within the community, with their special emphasis on the vulnerable and on education.
Additionally, the mayor advocated for attorneys and all members of the Denver community to get involved in the schools.
“I’m a huge proponent of people volunteering their time in schools. I tell people just an hour a week of your time can make such a huge difference in a school in the allocation of resources for that principal,” he said. “The more kids are exposed to what you do the more they are likely to look at that and say that is a profession I would like to pursue, particularly kids who don’t traditionally go into law. That is huge.”
‘This Place Is Rockin’
Hancock also discussed what attracts people to Denver and why so many people stay. From his experience, people highlight several factors when talking about their enthusiasm for Denver such as the climate, the friendliness and hospitality of the people, the public transit system, the vibrancy of downtown, and the proximity to the mountains.
Hancock has taken the time this first year to continue to enjoy many of the things Denver has to offer the community and the region. When looking for BBQ, you might find him at Famous Dave’s. When grabbing a quick lunch, he enjoys visiting with the Denver community lined up for the offerings of the food trucks that converge on Civic Center Park in the summer.
Hancock said the parks and not-tomiss cultural events, such as Taste of Colorado, Cinco de Mayo, and Oktoberfest, are an indication of the vibrancy of Denver and downtown.
“Downtown is without question the entertainment center of the city. It is where people are,” he said. “This place is rockin’. I like our scene here in Denver.”
In the coming year, Hancock plans to take an introspective look at the government. “We are going to look at government and make sure we weed out any stupidity and redundancy of government, where we get in the way of progress and production and effectiveness,” he said.
To accomplish this objective, Hancock will create a “smart government” committee to look at the city charter and find ways to emphasize efficiency.
“We are going to take a really hard look at every organization in the city and make sure we are streamlined, efficient and effective,” he said. D
Ryan T. Jardine is a public finance attorney with Kutak Rock LLP in Denver.