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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 17, 20173min170
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. (Colorado Statesman file photo)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock took to the national airwaves this week, boasting about the speed and efficiency of his city government and talking up the city’s bid for Amazon HQ2.

The Mile High City’s chief executive was featured on “CBS This Morning’s American Voices” series, which examines how national issues are playing out at a local level.

The five-minute segment focused on Hancock’s Denver Peak Academy, which trains employees to improve how government runs and boasts saving the city roughly $22.5 million. It also touched on the city’s affordable housing efforts including a $150 million housing fund, which through developer fees and increased property taxes will support new or preserve existing affordable housing, and renter eviction assistance. The “CBS This Morning” crew was most impressed by the 20-minute wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles, down from 80 minutes.

A smiling Hancock also talked Denver traffic, growing up in a large family with nine siblings and overcoming adversity.

“There’s a line in one of Will Smith’s movies, simply, ‘When you want something, go after and get it, period,’” Hancock said. “I don’t know where that resiliency came from within me. Maybe it was watching my mother try to raise 10 children as a single parent, going through the difficulty that she went through that really gave it to me to say, ‘We’re going to fight. I don’t want to come back here, and I want to make her proud.’”

On Amazon, Hancock said, “We’re going to put our best foot forward. At the end of the day, we’re going to continue to be Denver regardless of what happens.”

Watch Hancock’s full interview here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 17, 20173min1160

With lots on Denver’s public infrastructure plate, the new executive director of Department of Public Works, appointed this week by Mayor Michael Hancock, will likely prove to be a key member of city government.

Eulois Cleckley will take the helm Dec. 11, overseeing a robust city department which manages services involving public infrastructure and facilities.

He’ll also aid the city in launching dozens of public infrastructure projects associated with $937 million in recently-approved general obligation bonds and facilitating the reorganization of his new department to spur the creation of a city department of transportation and mobility.

“Many of the services that Denver residents count on during their day are delivered by our Public Works team, and in Eulois we found a leader who will bring a renewed vision and energy to support our residents as they go about their daily lives,” Hancock said in a statement.

Cleckley will join Denver by way of the Houston-Galveston Area Council, where he oversaw the Metropolitan Planning Organization as deputy director. He’s previously served as chief of statewide and regional planning, and later acting chief of the Field Operations Division, for Washington, D.C.’s District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

“Denver is a growing city, and I am committed to ensure the department delivers projects and services in an efficient manner that addresses the needs of communities across Denver,” Cleckley said in a statement.

Denver plans to use the voter-approved GO bonds to fund 69 projects ranging from $13 million in upgrades to the 16th Street Mall to $35.5 million for Denver Art Museum improvements and Denver Central Library renovations totaling $38 million. Find a full list here.

Denver voters overwhelmingly supported the GO bond measures, with support ranging from 67 to 75 percent on the seven bond packages on the ballot.

The city wants to split the Department of Public Works into two cabinet-level divisions focusing on mobility and infrastructure.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 16, 20172min1430

Denver International Airport will grow to address surging passenger traffic after city officials approved a $1.5 billion gate-expansion project earlier this week.

The Denver City Council OK’d a series of design and construction contracts associated with the project Monday night. The 39-gate expansion across the airport’s three concourses is expected to be complete by 2021.

“I think people should know that Denver is growing and that means that their airport has to grow at the same time,” DIA spokesperson Heath Montgomery told Denver7.

DIA officials say the airport must expand to meet climbing passenger traffic. When the airport first opened more than two decades ago, it was designed to accommodate 50 million passengers a year. But DIA passenger traffic has perpetually swelled, exceeding airport capacity last year. The airport set a passenger traffic record last year with 58.3 million traveling through its gates last year.

The new gate expansion is akin to another project recently approved by the city. The $1.8 billion Great Hall Project will overhaul security screening checkpoints and concessions and boost the Jeppesen terminal’s capacity to 80 million passengers a year. Through a 34-year, private-public partnership with Spanish transportation infrastructure behemoth Ferrovial, the project was controversial, in part, because of the City Council’s loss of oversight of new concessions.

DIA’s concourses were initially designed to allow for growth and additional gates, according to the airport. In 2014, five new gates were completed on DIA’s C concourse in a $46 million expansion project to bring the airport’s current gate count to 107.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 14, 20172min1600

While much of Denver has been undergoing a facelift of sorts for some time, enjoying (or not enjoying) booming development and investment in new infrastructure, some southwest city neighborhoods feel left behind.

Denverite’s Andrew Kenney wrote last week about a stretch of Denver, largely constructed in the 1950s and 60s, that feel caught in limbo. They don’t have many of the amenities new subdivisions enjoy and have missed out on investment. However, they are ready to take funding improvements like new sidewalks into their own hands. In fact, Denver Councilman Jolon Clark and community leaders are spearheading a plan which would bring millions to the area.

As Clark discovered, a lot of the money pouring into projects around the city doesn’t actually come from the city.

It often comes from the districts — pseudo-governmental organizations organized as business improvement districts or general improvement districts that collect extra property taxes. They’ve multiplied in Denver lately. The largest have budgets approaching $1 million per year, and they’re using it to take out tens of millions in debt for everything from sidewalks to marketing.

Those unique pseudo-governmental organization aren’t so unique afterall. They’ve been created in other neighborhoods like Stapleton and Five Points, among others, Kenney reports.

Clark is working with the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association, which has already hired a consultant to help plan for a potential district. Kenney writes while the plan could bring millions to the neighborhood, it would also ask for about $60 per households and require a vote from residents to create a district.

Read Kenney’s full story here.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 13, 20174min4500

Aurora’s traditionally red City Council will have a blue hue after last week’s election.

Per preliminary election results, progressive candidates have won three seats on the Aurora City Council, altering the political makeup of a non-partisan board that is however typically a mainstay for conservatives. As the Aurora Sentinel reports:

In Ward I, upstart candidate Crystal Murillo leads incumbent Sally Mounier by approximately 400 votes. In Ward II, Nicole Johnston leads the pack with more than 2,600 votes. And in the At-Large race, Allison Hiltz will likely come out on top. She already has 15,000 votes.

The three women could start influencing city policy on public transportation, affordable housing, development, immigration and the environment (per the candidates’ campaign websites).

Murillo, who at 23 will be the youngest member of the council, says on her website her main priority will be affordable housing. She said she will “fight to make sure families can stay in their homes and implement policies that get renters on a path to homeownership.”

The daughter of Mexican immigrants, she will be featured an upcoming episode of She’s the Ticket, an online program following female candidates for public office around the country, according to Westword.

Progressives had their collective eye on Aurora city government early in the runup to the election.

The three candidates were coached by Emerge Colorado, a six-month program that trains Democratic women how to run election campaigns.

And, political clout from progressive groups like Colorado People’s Action  and Conservation Colorado, both of which promised to canvass voters on their behalf and provide other support, probably didn’t hurt.

The women also garnered the endorsement of the hometown newspaper, the Aurora Sentinel, in an October editorial.

The board will still however retain many conservative voices. One of which, as the Sentinel noted, will likely be conservative incumbent Marsha Berzins, who appears poised to retain her Ward III seat on the council.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 7, 20174min8550

Considering the obstacles environmental activists faced in their organized efforts to mandate green roofs in Denver, Initiative 300 appeared a long shot leading into election night.

Nonetheless, Denver’s green roof initiative appeared poised to succeed late Tuesday by a narrow margin. As of 10 p.m., the initiative had garnered 51 percent of the vote (43,599 votes to 41,341), according to Denver election results.

The activists behind the Denver Green Roof Initiative faced formidable opposition and a steep 12-1 disadvantage in campaign spending.

Several Denver City Council members came out against the ballot initiative — which would require newly-built, large buildings to dedicate roof space to vegetation and/or solar panels — arguing it carried unintended consequences. Even Mayor Michael Hancock said it went too far and provided no flexibility.

Developers rallied around the opposition with large campaign donations.

All told, the organized opposition, the Citizens for a Responsible Denver, significantly outraised the Denver Green Roof Initiative, $250,000 to $22,000, according to the Denver Post.

Under the green roof ordinance, newly-built buildings larger than 25,000 square feet would be required to dedicate a portion (the portion will vary depending on building size) of their rooftops to vegetation or solar panels.

Organizers say green roofs will help reduce the city’s urban heat island effect. Rooftops absorb warmth from the sun, raising the city’s temperature by nearly five degrees, the citizens group behind the initiative said. However with a green roof, vegetation or solar panels are instead absorbing the sun’s rays, keeping buildings cool through a process called evapotranspiration.

Denver ranks third in the nation for urban heat island, according to USA Today, behind Las Vegas and Albuquerque. A cooler Denver would help reduce energy consumption in the city, the group said.

City Council members Kendra Black, Kevin Flynn, Stacie Gilmore and Mary Beth Susman opposed the initiative, arguing a green roof mandate carried with it unintended consequences including further driving up the cost of living in Denver and stymying development.

“Denver is becoming less and less affordable for our hard-working families,” Black previously said. “Let’s not make it any more expensive with the ill-conceived mandate for green roofs.”

Hancock said, “It goes too far too fast and provides no flexibility or opportunity for ‘carrots’ instead of ‘sticks.’”

Developers and business organizations like the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce also opposed the initiative.

The Denver City Council could modify or repeal the green roof ordinance after six months but would require a two-thirds majority vote, according to Denverite.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 7, 20173min2490

The vast majority of Denver large commercial and multifamily building owners are now measuring and publicly reporting the energy performance of their properties under a recently-enacted city ordinance.

Denver Environmental Health officials say 85 percent of owner of properties larger than 50,000 square feet have began reporting the energy data to the city. Under the Energize Denver program, building owners work with ENERGY STAR to benchmark the energy performance of their buildings. Denver will in-turn publish the performance data on an annual basis.

Enacted last December, the energy performance rule aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the largest source in Denver — large commercial and multifamily buildings. The energy consumed in these particular properties account for 57 percent of Denver’s harmful greenhouse gas emissions, according to the city.

The city publishing the data will cause the market to better value energy efficiency, like miles per gallon ratings in the vehicle industry or nutrition labels in the food market, the city argues.

“Benchmarking the energy performance of buildings is the first step to understanding and reducing energy consumption because you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” the city said in a statement.

Denver joined dozens of other large cities, including New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. in establishing benchmarking requirements. Based on data from other cities, Denver said it expects to see 2-3 percent energy savings each year in the targeted buildings.

Owners had until Sept. 1 (the deadline was June 1, but the first year had a 90-day grace period) to submit the data. There is a $2,000 penalty for building owners not in compliance. Buildings larger than 25,000 square feet will join the program next year, with a report date of June 1.

Denver’s climate plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 and sets lofty goals like a move to all clean, renewable energy by 2030 and requiring new buildings follow “net-zero” standards. Denver wants to reduce energy consumption by commercial and multifamily buildings by 10 percent by the end of 2020 and double that in the following decade.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 6, 20173min1750

It’s art week in Denver, so naturally Mayor Michael Hancock cut a rug in front of the media during a hip-hop lesson last week.

Westword’s Kyle Harris detailed the awkward start (his words, not ours) to the nine-day celebration of Denver arts and culture on Thursday.

Then came the event that all of us suckers in the media had come for: the mayor learning hip-hop dance moves from internationally renowned French artist Salah. “We’re gonna pop it,” quipped (CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Janice) Sinden, as the dancer came to the front of the crowd.

Then Salah, who said he was enthusiastic that he was teaching a mayor how to dance for the first time, gave both Hancock and Sinden a few moves to try out. They struggled with their jackets and chortled as their bodies tried to keep up.

Denver Arts Week kicked off Friday and runs through Nov. 11. The week includes a slew of events you can find here, but also includes Imagine 2020 where the City Council is challenged to “infuse arts and culture” into council districts.

“At its core, IMAGINE 2020 is about creating arts and cultural opportunities for all Denver residents and visitors to enjoy right in their communities.” Hancock said in a statement.

Denver Arts & Venues has provided the council members with $2,020 to find artists, organizations or programs and bring arts and culture to the city. Community Zumba, a live performance by Latin Sol and a cross-cultural dance celebration at two elementary schools are among the events scheduled.

Click here for a list of events in Denver council districts.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 6, 20174min4670

Denver is considered by many to be among the frontrunners to win the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, or as the kids call it HQ2.

Amazon is after all weighing a city’s or region’s proximity to an international airport (within a 45 minute-drive), strong local and regional talent and recreational opportunities not unlike those Seattle offers (i.e. mountains) in the HQ2 decision process. Denver’s got ‘em. Even the New York Times picked the Mile High City to ultimately woo Amazon.

But, the retail giant is also considering public transportation, and according to one study, Denver’s poor access to transit could hurt its odds.

Real estate research company Reis Inc., based in New York City, conducted a recent survey of 25 cities which showed Denver behind more than a dozen cities in the bid for Amazon’s second HQ, largely due to poor mass-transit access. NYC, San Francisco and Washington D.C. topped the rankings, with Denver coming in at 15.

Reis analyzed the 25 cities across eight equally-weighted criteria Amazon outlined in its request for proposals.

Amazon announced it would start accepting proposals for a location for its second headquarters in September, promising to invest more than $5 billion for construction and operation of HQ2 and create 50,000 jobs. With the construction and operation of an Amazon HQ2, the surrounding community should expect to grow tens of thousands of additional jobs, and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment, Amazon said.

The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation’s proposal — submitted last month and including as many as eight metro-area locations for HQ2 —  is said to highlight the region’s educated workforce and quality of life over financial incentives.

Reis’s survey noted Amazon could decide on a location for HQ2 based on factors other than those considered in their research.

“These measures include the tax incentives granted by the city/state, the ‘creativeness’ of the location, other immeasurable qualitative features and/or an underlying preference on the part of the decision makers for such things as access to skiing, a lake, river or ocean,” the study said.

Amazon said it received 238 proposals from cities and regions in 54 states, provinces, districts territories across the country.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyNovember 2, 20174min11291

As Denver is focused on getting residents to ditch their vehicles and use more public transit, one recent study concluded Denverites sure love their cars.

Arcadis, a global engineering company with a division based in Colorado, released its “Sustainable Cities Mobility Index” this week, ranking some of the world’s biggest cities by the sustainability of their urban transportation systems, the Denver Business Journal reports.

Worldwide, Denver ranked 80 out of 100 on the index. As the Business Journal explains, that’s not necessarily a great end of the index spectrum to be on. The more car-dependent the city, the worse the score.

Detroit, Tampa, Indianapolis and Houston were among the U.S. cities to score worse than Denver. Hong Kong led the index as no. 1 in the world, followed by Zurich, Paris and Seoul.

The study does specifically speak to Denver’s score on the index, as the Journal notes:

What does the report say about Denver? “Today, 73 percent of Denver commuters still drive to and from work by personal vehicles, however, traditional automobile commuting will not lead to a sustainable future as the population continues to grow exponentially.”

Last year, Arcadis ranked Denver as the world’s 49th-most sustainable city, and the sixth-most sustainable city in the U.S. in its Sustainable Cities Index.

The study recommends “non-traditional approaches and leveraging technology to meet the mobility needs.” Over the summer, Denver officials announced plans to create a department of transportation to focus on mobility and improve transportation in the city. The city recently noted it will take some time to create, with many moving pieces. The creation of a cabinet-level department requires an amendment to the city charter, prompting a vote.

You can find the full study here, and the Denver Business Journal’s piece here.